Thai pro-democracy leader Arnon Nampa (C) listens to plain cloth police officers reading an arrest warrant, after the police quelled an anti-government protest outside Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, 15 October 2020 (reissued 26 September 2023). EFE-EPA/STR THAILAND OUT/FILE

Leader of 2020 Thai protests given 4-year prison sentence

Bangkok, Sep 26 (EFE).- Thai lawyer and human rights activist Arnon Nampa, one of the most prominent leaders of large pro-democracy protests of 2020 in Thailand, was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison for demanding a reform of the country’s monarchy in a speech three years ago.

Thailand’s Criminal Court found Arnon guilty of violating Article 112 of the Penal Code, which provides for up to 15 years in prison for anyone who defames, offends or threatens the king, queen or crown prince, and sentenced him to four years of prison, according to the NGO Thai Lawyers for Human Rights in a statement.

The case dates back to a speech before about 6,000 people in Bangkok on Oct. 14, 2020, when the lawyer urged participants to “call for reform of the monarchy,” a message the court interpreted Tuesday as a ” slander” that causes the king to be “dishonored” and “hated.”

Arnon is known for his public calls for democracy and is one of the leaders of the massive student protests of 2020, which among other things called for reform of the Thai monarchy and called for a public debate about the country’s powerful king.

The court also said the human rights lawyer must pay a THB20,000 (about $550) fine, while acquitting him of seven other accusations against him.

The organization reported that, following the verdict, the defense is now working to “request bail as the case is on appeal.”

Thailand’s royal defamation law is considered one of the toughest and strictest in the world, although the 2020 protests – which began to demand the resignation of former Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and the drafting of a new constitution – have given way to an incipient public dialogue about the until then untouchable royal family.

The debate gained strength again this year and even entered the country’s political arena, when the reformist party Move Forward surprised by winning the general elections in May with its progressive agenda, which includes the reform of the army and the severe royal defamation laws.

However, Move Forward Pita Limjaroenrat could not be elected prime minister precisely due to the rejection of the Senate, hand-picked by the former military junta, to his plans to promote these reforms.

According to the latest data provided by the lawyers organization, as of the end of August, 1,925 people have been politically prosecuted in 1,241 cases in Thailand since the start of the pro-democracy protests in July 2020.

Of these, 286 are minors under 18, while 257 of the accused are responsible for violating the royal defamation laws and another 130 for crimes of sedition. EFE