Thai deputy PM orders action on lese majeste websites

Thai deputy PM orders action on lese majeste websites
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha gestures as he answers a question from the media following a cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok on April 7, 2015.
PHOTO: AFP

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan has instructed the Information and Communications Technology Ministry and related agencies to crack down on websites deemed to be violating the lese majeste law, as such messages worsen the national divide, a source said yesterday.

Prawit was responding to a report from the PM's Office Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana, who said stringent government policies were required to control these websites, which seem to have become rampant.

The defence minister has instructed relevant officials to produce results in the next meeting.

Meanwhile, a man was sentenced to more than three years in jail yesterday over lese majeste charges.

Thanet Nonthakot, 45, from the Northeast province of Phetchabun, was found guilty of insulting the monarchy in an e-mail he sent four years ago, a Bangkok Criminal Court judge said.

Under the Criminal Code's Section 112, anybody convicted of insulting the monarchy faces up to 15 years jail on each count.

A psychologist testified that Thanet suffered from mental illness, but was fit to stand trial and was aware of his actions when the alleged offence took place.

"The defendant cannot prove that he was unable to control himself when he sent the e-mail," the judge said.

Thanet denied breaching the law, but admitted sending the e-mail. He was handed a five-year jail term, but it was cut to three years and four months thanks to his "useful" testimony.

Lese majeste prosecutions have surged since former Army chief Prayut Chan-o-cha seized power in May last year.

According to iLaw, a local rights group that monitors such cases, just two people were being prosecuted for royal defamation before the coup, but now that number has risen to 46.

Recent cases include a 58-year-old man sentenced to 25 years in prison for the content of five Facebook posts and a bookseller jailed for an alleged offence back in 2006.

In early May, a mentally ill 65-year-old woman was also jailed for allegedly insulting a portrait of His Majesty.

Earlier this month the junta banned the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand from holding a planned debate on the law.

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