A Man Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison for Selling Calendars Mocking King of Thailand

A Thai man was sentenced to two years in prison Tuesday for selling a calendar featuring a satirical cartoon of a yellow duck that a court said mocked the country’s king, a legal aid group said.

The Bangkok Criminal Court ruled that a calendar for 2021 containing a yellow duck in a pose resembling Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn harmed its reputation, says group Thai Human Rights Lawyers.

The yellow rubber duck was once a symbol of Thailand’s pro-democracy protest movement.

Narathorn Chotmankongsin was charged under Thailand’s lese majeste law, which sentences anyone who defames, insults or threatens their king, queen, descendants or guardians to three to 15 years in prison.

Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his wife Queen Suthida in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, December 5, 2021. (Photo: via AP )

Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his wife Queen Suthida in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, December 5, 2021. (Photo: via AP )

The court ruled that the six illustrations in the calendar were deliberately made to ridicule the king.

The legal aid group said the 26-year-old defendant, identified by the nickname Ton Mai, had his sentence reduced to two years because he cooperated with the court.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement Wednesday (8/3) calling on Thai authorities to overturn the sentence and immediately release Narathorn Chotmankongsin.

“The prosecution and three-year sentence of a man for selling satirical calendars demonstrates that Thai authorities are now seeking to punish any activity they deem insulting the monarchy,” said Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This case sends a message to all Thai people, and to the whole world, that Thailand is not moving towards a democracy that respects human rights.”

The lese majeste law has long been criticized for its harsh penalties and provisions that allow anyone to file a complaint, allowing it to be used for partisan political purposes.

In recent years, the law has become the focus of pro-democracy activists, who have called for the law to be changed or abolished.

Two young women activists demanding repeal and other justice reforms are reported to be in critical condition after going on a hunger strike for more than six weeks.

At least 233 people have been charged with lese majeste since November 2020 according to the Thai Human Rights Lawyers group.

Calls to reform the monarchy have been controversial because traditionally, the institution is seen as untouchable and one of the main foundations of Thai nationalism. [ab/uh]

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