NEW YORK—The sentencing of Thai democracy activist Pai Dao Din for nothing more than a Facebook post is another outrageous application of Thailand’s lèse-majesté law designed to silence critics of the military regime, PEN America said today.

Law student Jatupat Boonpattararaksa—better known by his nickname “Pai Dao Din”—was sentenced on August 15 to two-and-a-half years in prison. He was arrested in December 2016 for sharing an article on Facebook (without any additional comment) from the BBC’s Thai service about King Rama X which included details about his personal life and his previous marriages. Although more than 2,000 people shared the link, Pai is the only person arrested for doing so.

Pai was charged under Article 112 of the Thai Penal Code and the Computer Crime Act, both of which have been condemned by human rights groups for contravening international human rights law and for their use in policing criticism and dissent. Under the current military regime, the use of lèse-majesté charges has risen dramatically.

Pai’s sentence was originally five years imprisonment; this was halved because Pai confessed to the crime (it is common for courts to do so for confessions in lèse-majesté cases.) Pai had been kept in detention for more than 200 days, and told reporters that he has repeatedly been subject to rectal searches.

“The conviction of Pai Dao Din is a clear case of the military junta using ‘lèse-majesté’ to punish and silence its critics,” said James Tager, Free Expression Programs Manager at PEN America. “This absurd sentence is also a demonstration of the need to reform Thailand’s lèse-majesté law. Two-and-a-half years for a Facebook post is manifestly unjust. PEN America reiterates its call for Thailand to amend Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code and the Computer Crime Act immediately in order to uphold the right to free expression.”

Pai is a member of the student activist group Dao Din, which has protested the military junta. In June 2016 the group’s headquarters were raided, and Dao Din members have been arrested for holding events to protest the military takeover, and for joining peaceful gatherings demanding Pai’s release. Pai is one of five Dai Din activists detained in 2014 after interrupting a speech by military leader Prayut Chan-Ocha. During their detention, they were pressured—but refused—to sign a document committing them to never express disapproval of the junta again.

PEN America has previously raised concerns over the deteriorating state of free expression in Thailand, including the 2016 amendments to the Computer Crime Act and the imprisonment of student activists Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkong, sentenced under lèse-majesté after staging a play about a fictional monarch. In June 2017, PEN America declared the 35-year sentence of “Wichai” for lèse-majesté as “neither reasonable nor just.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

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