A Thai court sentenced a leader of the Red Shirt political movement to two years in prison for a speech judged to have insulted the country’s monarchy.
The court ruled on Thursday that 54-year-old satirist and political adviser Yoswarit Chuklom made a speech insulting the monarchy at a political rally in 2010. The Red Shirts took to the streets in 2010 in political protests that ended in deadly clashes with the military.
Yoswarit, who goes by the stage name Jeng Dokchik, was found guilty under Thailand’s strict lese majeste law, which punishes anyone convicted of defaming the Thai king, queen, heir or regent with up to 15 years in prison.
Currently an adviser to a Cabinet minister, he is also facing separate terrorism charges for his role in the protests in Bangkok. He is applying for bail while he appeals the verdict, his lawyer Thamrong Lakdaen said.
“Initially he was sentenced to three years, but the judge reduced the sentence to two because of the evidence he gave,” Thamrong said.
The royal family is a highly sensitive subject in Thailand. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 85, is revered by many Thais but has been in hospital since September 2009.
Rights campaigners allege that the lese majeste law has been politicised, saying many of those charged are linked to the Red Shirt movement.
Thailand has been roiled by political divisions since a 2006 coup deposed then-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who draws on the support of the mainly rural and poor Red Shirts.
In March 2010 tens of thousands of Red Shirts converged on Bangkok demanding immediate elections.
About 90 people were killed and nearly 1,900 were wounded in street clashes between demonstrators and security forces, which culminated in a bloody military crackdown and the arrests of the movement’s leaders.