BANGKOK, THAILAND — A Thai court sentenced a teenager to 12 months in prison for royal defamation Thursday over a “crop top” outfit he wore to a protest three years ago, a rights group said.
Thailand’s lese-majeste law is one of the strictest in the world, and those convicted of criticising King Maha Vajiralongkorn or his close family can be jailed for up to 15 years.
Napasit joined a pro-democracy protest in 2020 wearing a black crop top, a seeming reference to pictures that appeared in some European media several years earlier apparently showing the king wearing a similar article of clothing.
The 19-year-old, whose name was withheld by the court, also had a message painted on his body deemed a “mockery to the king”, a statement from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said.
“The king is of a sacred status that should not be violated,” the court said in its judgment, according to the legal group.
Napasit was initially sentenced to three years in jail, “but as the defendant committed the crime when he was a minor aged 16, it was reduced by half to one year and six months… And due to useful testimony, the defendant gave, the sentence was reduced to 12 months,” TLHR said.
At least 246 people have been accused of or charged with breaking the royal defamation law since mid-2020, including 20 minors, according to a TLHR tally.
Domestic and international media must exercise strict caution in their reporting of lese-majeste cases and the monarchy in general, or risk prosecution.
The Move Forward Party (MFP), which won the most seats in May elections, campaigned on a pledge to soften the law.
But on Wednesday, the party’s leader Pita Limjaroenrat was suspended as a lawmaker, pending investigation in a share ownership case by the Constitutional Court, and his two attempts to become prime minister have been blocked by parliament.