Thai student leader faces long prison sentence for sharing article on Facebook
Jatupat faces a lengthy prison sentence under Thailand's strict lese majeste laws. Source: Facebook

PROMINENT Thai student leader Jatupat Boonpattararaksa pleaded guilty on Tuesday to defaming the country’s monarch by sharing a news story about the new king on Facebook.

According to an AFP story (via the Straits Times), the student’s lawyer said the 25-year-old activist made the guilty plea in a bid to reduce a very lengthy prison sentence.

“After Jatupat consulted with his family, he pleaded guilty this morning before the court for committing the alleged wrongdoing as charged,” one of his lawyers, Krisadang Nootjaras, was quoted as saying.

Jatupat is among the latest activists in the country to be slapped with the kingdom’s lese majeste law, which makes it illegal for anyone to defame, insult, or threaten the king, queen, heir-apparent, or regent, under its criminal code.

Each charge under the law carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

The AFP report said Jatupat is expected to be handed sentencing by a court in northeastern Khon Kaen province later on Tuesday.

The activist, who has staged several protests against Thailand’s junta, was arrested two days after the king ascended the throne in December.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn is seen on his way out from the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, in December 2016. Source: Reuters

Jatupat was arrested for insulting the monarchy after he shared a BBC Thai-language profile of the new king, which some said was offensive, on the social networking website.

Most suspects charged under Thailand’s lese majeste law are almost always convicted of the crime, many of them were tried behind closed doors.

International rights groups have criticised the lese-majeste law, saying it leaves too much room for interpretation and that the penalties are too severe.

Thailand’s junta has cracked down on critics of the monarchy since a 2014 coup and prosecutions increased further after the death of former King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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