A Thai female member of parliament who received a six-year prison sentence for violating the country's strict lese-majeste legislation has been granted parole. Rukchanok "Ice" Srinork faced allegations of disseminating tweets that criticised the monarchy. She entered a not-guilty plea.
The winning political party this year, Ice's Move Forward, had advocated for the revision of the lese-majeste legislation. However, the primary rationale cited by the unelected Senate for impeding the party's endeavour to establish a government was this.
In 2020, opposition to the lese-majeste laws was one of the causes of widespread demonstrations that raged for several months.
Since 2020, approximately 260 charges have been filed under the lese-majeste law, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. Diverse laws have been used to prosecute approximately 2,000 individuals for their participation in the demonstrations.
A prison sentence was imposed earlier this week on a 26-year-old man for yelling at a passing royal motorcade about a burden placed on society. Bail has been posted in his favour.
Furthermore, a Bangkok court found Ice guilty on Wednesday of denigrating the monarchy for two posts she published prior to joining the Move Forward party.
In the first, she criticised the nation's response to the pandemic, and in the second, she reposted a tweet that was allegedly critical of the monarchy. If the 28-year-old ultimately enters prison, she will forfeit her seat.
Following a no-frills campaign primarily conducted on a bicycle, she won her seat in Bang Bon, a constituency near Bangkok that had been ruled by one of Thailand's most powerful political clans for decades. This was arguably the most dramatic of many unexpected victories by the young Move Forward candidates in the May general election.
A Thai media outlet dubbed her the "giant-killer" in reference to the seat she occupied after a political heavyweight resigned.
A number of additional prominent members of the Move Forward party, the majority of whom were activists who participated in the 2020 protests, are also charged with lese-majeste.
A contentious court ruling in February 2020 that dissolved Future Forward, the former Move Forward and the first political party to advocate for a comprehensive reform of Thailand's institutions, sparked those demonstrations.
Future Forward's unexpectedly strong performance in the 2019 election was largely attributable to younger voters' enthusiastic support. This year, Move Forward performed even better than expected, securing more seats than any other party on account of victories similar to the one Ice secured in Bang Bon.
Approximately two years after King Vajiralongkorn ascended to the throne in 2016, the lese-majeste law was reportedly suspended at the monarch's behest.
As a result of the 2020 demonstrators' audacity in their call for royal reform, however, the Thai government resorted to the law more broadly than at any other time in its history. Due to the notoriously broad nature of the lese-majeste law, mounting a legal defence is extremely challenging.
Officially classified as a national security law, acquittals of defendants by judges are exceedingly uncommon. Frequently, trials are conducted in private settings, devoid of impartial observers.
Additionally, defendants face tremendous pressure to enter guilty pleas, irrespective of the merits of the case against them; conviction is virtually assured, and judges frequently reduce the sentences of individuals who enter guilty pleas by half.