(New York) — In response to the sentencing by Thai authorities of poet, human rights lawyer, and activist Arnon Nampa to two more years in prison, for a total of at least 10 years in prison PEN America issued the following statement:

“Nampa’s ten-year imprisonment for advocating for monarchy reform is highly alarming and completely unjust. The Thai government is demonstrating its blatant disregard for free expression by using lèse-majesté laws to silence any form of criticism. Nampa’s writings on social media platforms calling for forums of debate on the royal monarchy and speeches during the protests are acts of advocating for transparency and civic engagement, crucial elements for an open and informed society. We call for poet and activist Arnon Nampa’s immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all other individuals detained for exercising their right to peaceful expression.”

Today, Arnon Nampa received an additional two-year prison sentence for charges including royal defamation and violating an emergency decree connected to a speech he made at a 2021 protest. Previously, in January 2024, he was sentenced to four years for three 2021 Facebook posts in which he wrote that Thai people should have the freedom to criticize and speak the truth about the Thai monarchy. Additionally, in September 2023, Nampa was sentenced to four years for comments at an October 2020 rally, calling for a public debate on the role of the monarchy in Thailand. With these sentences set to run consecutively, Nampa will serve a minimum of ten years. Nampa faces 11 additional charges in upcoming trials. 

Thailand’s lèse-majesté law criminalizes insults against the monarchy and carries a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment per count if convicted. The use of lèse-majesté law increased starting in 2020, following the Free Youth protests, which were student-led protests calling for political reforms and denouncing the harassment of government critics. At least 257 individuals have been charged with “lèse-majesté” under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, reflecting a concerning trend of stifling dissent and curbing freedom of expression in Thailand.

PEN America calls for the immediate release of imprisoned Thai dissidents and reiterates the urgent need for Thailand to repeal the lèse-majesté law, safeguarding the right to freedom of expression for all its citizens.