A Thai court today sentenced a government adviser, who helped lead protests in 2010 against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, to two years in prison for insulting the royal family.
Yossawaris Chuklom, a comedian who goes by the name Jeng Dokjik, received the sentence for comments made in a speech to protesters that implied King Bhumibol Adulyadej influenced Abhisit’s decision not to dissolve the parliament, according to a court statement. The court said it freed him on bail while he appeals the sentence because he showed no intention to flee.
“His statement falsely accused the king of political interference and opposing the defendant and his group,” the court said. “His statement that his speech didn’t mean he was referring to the king is groundless.”
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who replaced Abhisit in 2011 after her party won a parliamentary majority, appointed Yossawaris in November as a ministerial adviser. Yossawaris helped lead protests by the Red Shirts, a group calling for an election that was backed by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother.
Yossawaris joins at least seven others detained in Thailand under the lese-majeste law, which mandates jail sentences as long as 15 years for defaming, insulting or threatening the king, queen, heir apparent or regent. The United Nations has criticized the law for curbing free speech as calls grow within Thailand to amend the statute.
Bhumibol, 85, assumed the throne in 1946 and serves as head of state. Thailand’s Constitution says the king “shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated.”
Yossawaris told Red Shirt protesters that Abhisit refused to dissolve parliament in 2010 on the orders of an unidentified person with more power than both him and Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, the king’s top adviser, according to the court. The speech apparently made people believe that Yossawaris was referring to the king, the court said.
More than 90 people died in the 2010 protests, which spanned 10 weeks and ended with a military crackdown. Abhisit, now the opposition leader after his party lost an election the following year, faces murder charges for his role in the dispersal.