By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
BANGKOK, Thailand – Thai comedian, Yossawaris Chuklom, was sentenced to two years in prison by a local judge after making insulting remarks against the Thai Monarchy in a political demonstration speech from 2010.
Yossawaris Chuklom, age 54, who uses the stage name Jeng Dokchik, made the insulting remarks during a mass political rally in Bangkok. He is a key member of the “red-shirt” political movement which supported exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted by a military coup in 2006 during a period of extreme political upheaval. The “red-shirt” group occupied different parts of the Thai capital of Bangkok in March of 2010 to support the exiled Thaksin Shinawatra and demanded the resignation of then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
During the political unrest staged by the “red-shirt” group where Yossawaris Chuklom made his allegedly insulting remarks against the Thai Monarchy, roughly 90 people, both civilian and government soldiers were killed. The ordeal lasted about two months.
Yossawaris Chuklom was convicted for his crimes under Thailand’s strict lese majeste laws which punish any person who defames the Thai king, queen, heirs, or regents. The maximum penalty under these laws is up to 15 years in prison.
Chuklom was originally sentenced to three years in prison; however, the judge reduced the sentence from three years to the current sentence of two after Chuklom gave up useful evidence. Yossawaris Chuklom also faces separate state terrorism charges for his role in the 2010 “red-shirt” group street protests in Bangkok.
Chuklom’s lawyer, Thamrong Lakdaen, says that his client intends to post bail and appeal the unfair sentence. Pundits and critics say that Thailand’s lese majeste laws are only in place to suppress freedom of speech and have no legitimate legal purpose.
Yossawaris Chuklom also currently serves as an advisor to Thailand’s deputy minister of commerce. The deputy minister serves under a government led by exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s sister who came into power after elections in 2011.
Chuklom’s ties to Thaksin’s sister and his ties to the “red-shirt” group have all been cited as possible activities that have led to his unfair sentencing and incarceration. This has been used as further fuel by critics to question the legitimacy of the lese majeste laws.
The Thai Monarchy however is highly revered in the country by a vast amount of the population. The lese majeste laws are intended to provide Bhumibol Adjulyadej, the 85 year old king and head of the Thai Monarchy, protection.
For further information, please see:
BBC – Thai comedian and ‘red-shirt’ leader jailed for royal insult – 17 January 2013
The Telegraph – Thai comedian sentenced for insulting monarchy – 17 January 2013
The Star – Comedian gets 2 years’ jail for insulting Thai royals – 17 January 2013
The Southern Illinoisan – Thai Red Shirt gets jail term for anti-king speech – 16 January 2013