Thai activist and comedian jailed for royal insult

Featured - January 19th, 2013

A Thai activist and comedian have been sentenced to two years in jail for insulting the revered monarchy in a speech during a mass rally in 2010.

Yossawaris Chuklom, a prominent member of Thailand’s “red shirt” political movement – mainly made up of supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra – was found guilty of royal insult by a Thai court on Thursday.

He currently serves as an advisor to Thailand’s deputy commerce minister under the government of Mr. Thaksin’s sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The comedian, who uses the stage name Jeng Dokchik, had originally been handed a three-year jail sentence but the judge reduced it to two because he had given “useful evidence”, Thamrong Lakdaen, his lawyer, told AFP, adding that his client intended to appeal against the verdict and would apply for bail.

Yossawaris is also facing separate terrorism charges for his role in the 2010 Red Shirt street protests in Bangkok, demanding the government of then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to step down.

More than 90 people, including civilians and soldiers, were killed in the violent protests.

Thailand’s strict lese majeste laws are intended to protect the monarchy, which punishes anyone convicted of defaming the the royal family with up to 15 years in prison.

Critics claim the controversial law have been increasingly politicized and used to curb free speech, AFP reports.