Move Forward MP Rukchanok Srinork sentenced to 6 years in jail

Photo: Chanakarn Laosarakham / iLaw
Photo: Chanakarn Laosarakham / iLaw

An opposition MP has been sentenced to six years in prison Wednesday morning after being charged with lèse-majesté.

Move Forward MP Rukchanok Srinork, 29, was handed down the sentence by the Criminal Court for two posts she made on Twitter criticizing COVID-19 vaccine allocations with pictures of His Majesty the King. She was charged with two counts of violations of Article 112 as well as the Computer Crime Act. She was given three years of jail time for each count of Article 112 violation.

The posts were made between July 18 and Aug, 9, 2021.

Rukchanok, who represented Bangkok, denied all charges. Since Friday, she has been accompanied in court by former Move Forward party leader Pita Limjaroenrat and current party leader Chaitawat Tulathon, who also acted as Rukchanok’s lawyer. She had sought to postpone the verdict reading today, but the Court rejected her plea.

Rukchanok sought to postpone the ruling because today was her first day at work in the new House parliamentary session.

When the sentence was heard, she was immediately detained. Chaithawat said he would seek to grant her bail later today. If she does not gain bail by today, she will lose her House seat as ruled by law.

The conviction of the MP is a worrying sign for freedom of expression in Thailand. The lèse-majesté law is a powerful tool that can be used to silence dissent and suppress criticism of the monarchy.

Lèse-majesté is a serious crime in Thailand, and carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Human rights groups have condemned the lèse-majesté law, saying that it is a violation of Thailand’s international human rights obligations.

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