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(New York) – a criminal court in Thailand A man has been sentenced to three years in prison for selling a satirical calendar that authorities have accused of defaming the monarchy, Human Rights Watch said today. Thai authorities should revoke the sentence and immediately release 26-year-old Narathorn Chotmankongsin, who was convicted on March 7, 2023, after a six-day trial.

“The prosecution and three-year sentence of a man for selling satirical calendars shows that Thai authorities are now seeking to punish any activity they deem to be insulting to the monarchy,” said ellen pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This case sends a message to all Thais and the rest of the world that Thailand is no closer to becoming a democracy that respects rights – it is moving further away from it.”

On December 31, 2020, Bangkok police arrested Northorn at his home and confiscated a calendar containing a cartoon of a yellow duck. Authorities said the images and details mocked and defamed Thailand’s King Rama 10, and accused Northorn of having committed the crime. les glory (insulting the monarchy) to sell calendars through pro-democracy Ratsdon Facebook page. Pro-democracy and political reform groups in Thailand have widely used the inflated yellow duck to symbolize their political cause, which includes reforming the monarchy as a fundamental step towards a democratic transition.

Northorn was convicted under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, which states that “whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, heir-apparent or regent, He shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”

The number of lese majeste cases in Thailand has increased significantly over the past years. In November 2020, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha ordered The authorities used draconian legislation to suppress criticism of the monarchy, apparently in response to the rise of public anti-monarchy sentiment.

Since then, Thai authorities have charged more than 200 people with major crimes in connection with their participation in pro-democracy rallies, comments made on social media, and expressing opinions about the monarchy elsewhere. Authorities have also used the Computer-Related Crimes Act to prosecute people who posted comments critical of the monarchy online. He has also charged some people with sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand ratified in 1996, prohibits restrictions on freedom of expression on grounds of national security, unless they are provided for by law, strictly enforced and are necessary and proportionate to address a legitimate threat. Laws that impose criminal penalties for peaceful expression are of particular concern, as they have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the independent expert body that monitors compliance with the ICCPR, has stated in its General Note No. 34 On freedom of expression that:

[T]The mere fact that the forms of expression are considered derogatory to a public figure is not sufficient to justify the imposition of penalty. … Furthermore, all public figures, including those with the highest political authority such as heads of state and government, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition. Accordingly, the Committee expresses concern regarding the laws on such matters as … disrespect for authority … and the protection of the honor of public officials. [Governments] Criticism of institutions should not be barred.

The committee stated that governments should not prohibit criticism of public figures and institutions, and that laws such as lese majesté “should not provide for harsher punishments based solely on the identity of the person being attacked.”

Pearson said, “Thai authorities should allow the peaceful expression of all viewpoints relating to the monarchy.” “The government should urgently engage with UN experts and others about starting the process of amending the Lez Majesty law to bring it into compliance with Thailand’s international human rights obligations.”

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