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#BreakingNews Pro-Democracy Protest Leader “Get” Sentenced to 3.5 yrs in prison for royal defamation

What happened?

Today (August 24, 2023), Sophon “Get” Suraritthamrong, a leader of pro-democracy activist from Mokeluang Rimnam group, was found guilty of “royal defamation” for his speech during the #TourMooLaPua Protest in April 2022, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR). The Criminal Court sentenced him in the case of Article 112 to 3 years of imprisonment, without possibility of suspension. Furthermore, he also received a 6-month prison term for using a sound amplifier without permission. In total, his sentence amounts to 3 years and 6 months.

TLHR noted that the legal penalty for the use of a sound amplifier is typically a fine of not exceeding 200 THB. Get, on the other hand, received a 6 month-prison sentence.

As outlined by his lawyer, the events leading up to Get’s guilty verdict are as follows:

  • 22 April 2022 – Mr. Sophon Suraritthamrong (Get) gave a speech at a demonstration held at the Democracy Monument located in central Bangkok. In the speech, he allegedly criticized King Rama X and the Queen by stating that no matter how much merit they made, their pāramī would not increase. He also criticized the police by stating that the police who served the monarchy institution by ignoring the people were the enemy of the people.

  • 24 April 2022 - Mr. Arnon Klinkaew, chairman of the ultra royalist group called Thai People Protecting the Monarchy, filed a complaint with the police at Samran Rat Police Station and accused Get of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code.

  • 2 May 2022 - the police charged Get under Article 112 and the Advertisement by Using Sound Amplifiers Control Act B.E. 2493 (1950) (unpermitted use of sound amplifier).

  • 17 June 2023 - the prosecutor indicted Get under Article 112 and the use of sound amplifier without permission.

  • 24 August 2023 (today) - the Criminal Court found Get guilty of violating Article 112 and the use of sound amplifier without permission. Get was sentenced to 3 years' imprisonment under Article 112 and 6 months under the 1950 Act, totaling 3 years and 6 months.

Summary of today’s decisions made by the court:

On August 24, 2023, at 9.00 a.m., the Ratchada Criminal Court delivered the verdict of Get’s case with the following details:

Regarding the accusation that Get used amplifiers without a permit, the Court believed that Get did indeed join the public assembly on April 22, 2022, and used an amplifier to give a speech to the public while the King and Queen’s motorcade was traversing the vicinity, heading towards the temple for royal merit-making ceremonies.

According to the indictment order, Get said, "I will tell you one thing: even if you’d make merit in 100 temples, if your nature is still so messed up like this, messed up from the boss to the dust beneath the earth..." In this regard, the Court concluded that Get's speech is false and constitutes slander against the King and Queen which damaged the royal honor of the King and the Queen, causing them to be defamed and hated by others.

"If I get imprisoned this time, I would like to request my friends to look after one another and keep fighting. Those in positions of power probably want to use the law to break me. They might cease once they feel content, but they cannot target every individual, nor can they stifle our principles. No matter what, our society must change." - Sophon “Get” Suraritthamrong

Despite this, Get's lawyer has initiated proceedings to secure bail during the appeal process.

The unusually excessive prison sentence handed to Get further proves that the lèse-majesté law is being used by the establishment and its supporters to limit freedom of speech and silence activists, who merely demand TRUE democracy, radical change, and a fairer society.

#WeAreManushyan ♾️ Equal Human Beings

Our Call to Action!

✊Manushya stands in solidarity with Get, a brave member of our #YouthPowerDemocracy network, all pro-democracy activists facing judicial harassment, and everyone fighting for democracy in Thailand and Asia. We vehemently condemn the lèse-majesté law, and we call on the Thai government to respect its international human rights obligations on the right to freedom of expression and information, laid down in Article 19 of the UDHR and ICCPR. It must also comply with the UPR recommendations on freedom of expression, including the revision of Article 112, which it received during its 3rd UPR cycle.



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