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Red shirt activist Da Torpedo sentenced to 15 years for lèse majesté

(SEAPA/IFEX) - On 15 December, Bangkok's Criminal court sentenced activist and former journalist Daranee "Da Torpedo" Charnchoensilpakul to 15 years imprisonment after pleading not guilty on charges of insulting the monarchy, according to media reports.

In the third conviction in a month under Thailand's harsh lèse majesté laws, she was found guilty of three counts carrying a penalty of five years each. The charges came as a result of the outspoken critic's public speeches at rallies denouncing the political coup in 2008. Arrested in July of that year, she has since been held without bail for almost three and a half years.

The court's ruling, while allowing that she in no way directly referred to the monarchy during her speech, outlined a number of ways in which she allegedly defamed the institution. Judge Chanathip Muanpawong, who read out the verdict, had also presided over the increasingly controversial Akong (LINK) ruling earlier this month.

Daranee had previously been convicted and sentenced to 18 years during a closed-door trial, which the court later ruled was unconstitutional. She said on Thursday that while she did not plan to further appeal the ruling, she would apply for a royal pardon.

The severity of lèse majesté sentences has sharply increased in recent years. Following the conviction of an American citizen (LINK) earlier this month, the US Embassy in Bangkok declared they were "troubled by recent prosecutions and court decisions that are not consistent with international standards of freedom of expression."

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, also expressed her concern, saying: "Such harsh criminal sanctions are neither necessary nor proportionate and violate the country's international human rights obligations."

The issue continues to divide Thai society, with proponents from either side becoming increasingly vocal. On 10 December, advocates for reform of the law led a protest march in the heart of Bangkok, while supporters of the law picketed at the US embassy on 16 December to protest outside interference.

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