WASHINGTON: The United States spoke out Wednesday against harsh prison sentences against two Thai citizens convicted of defamation for insulting the royal family.
Thailand’s royal family, headed by ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 87, is protected by one of the world’s toughest lese majeste laws, carrying up to 15 years in jail for each count of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent.
Last Friday, a man was jailed for 30 years for “insulting” the monarchy on Facebook, in one of the most severe sentences ever handed down under the law.
The same day, a woman received a 28-year jail term also for posts on the social media website.
“We are deeply concerned about the lengthy prison sentences handed down by Thai military court against two people for violating Thailand lese-majeste law,” said Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman.
“No one should be jailed for peacefully expressing their views,” he said.
“We regularly urge Thai authorities both privately and publicly to ensure that freedom of expression is not criminalized and is protected in accordance to Thailand international obligations and commitments,” Toner said.
“And also I would say that the United States has the utmost respect of the Thai monarchy.”
Thailand’s revered king has been treated for “water on the brain” and a chest infection, the palace revealed in a rare statement on Tuesday, amid public concern over the health of the world’s longest serving monarch.
The monarch, perceived as a near-deity by many Thais, has been in Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital since being re-admitted in May, but information on his condition has been scarce.