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Thailand Revives Prison Terms for Royal Insults to Stop Protests

  • Lese majeste cases rise in tactical shift by authorities
  • Dozens of protesters were accused of defaming the monarchy
Protesters throw red paint on a heap of stationery and bamboo canes during a “Bad Student” demonstration outside the Ministry of Education in Bangkok on Jan. 16.
Protesters throw red paint on a heap of stationery and bamboo canes during a “Bad Student” demonstration outside the Ministry of Education in Bangkok on Jan. 16.Photographer: Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images
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After Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn took the throne in 2016, he instructed the government to stop using a controversial law criminalizing royal insults that had often forced those charged to flee overseas.

Yet after months of protests targeting him personally and calling for a reduction in the monarchy’s powers, authorities are again ramping up use of the law. Since late November, some 55 activists who participated in the demonstrations are facing royal defamation lawsuits, according to the group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.