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Courts in Thailand on Monday handed down jail sentences to an activist musician and an opposition lawmaker for insulting the monarchy. One of the activists was granted bail from pre-trial detention after being accused of harassing a royal motorcade and charged with sedition. The lese-majeste law in Thailand, which shields the monarchy from criticism, carries a penalty of up to 15 years in jail for each offense.

Chonthicha Jangrew, a 31-year-old parliamentarian, received a two-year jail term for a speech made at an anti-government protest in 2021. She denied the charges and was granted bail pending an appeal. Musician Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, 35, was sentenced to four years in prison for burning a portrait of King Maha Vajiralongkorn. He also denied the charges and set the portrait alight to protest the detention of fellow activists on similar charges.

More than 272 people have been charged under the lese-majeste law since 2020, with 17 being held in pre-trial detention. Legal aid group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, which has defended many of those prosecuted, reported on the legal battles facing activists in Thailand. In a separate ruling, 22-year-old Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon was granted bail from pre-trial detention. She was arrested in February after a live Facebook broadcast showing her arguing with police blocking traffic for a motorcade carrying Princess Sirindhorn.

The youth-led political movement in Thailand, which emerged in 2020, has called for reform of the monarchy and criticized the blocking of traffic for royal motorcades. Activist Netiporn “Bung” Sanesangkhom died while in pre-trial detention on charges including insulting royals. She had been on a partial hunger strike, as reported by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. The courts have yet to issue statements on the recent sentences, and the palace typically does not comment on the law.

The legal battles facing activists in Thailand highlight the challenges posed by the strict lese-majeste law in the country. Critics argue that the law stifles freedom of speech and expression, while supporters maintain that it is necessary to protect the monarchy from criticism. The ongoing crackdown on dissent in the country has raised concerns about human rights violations and the suppression of political opposition. Despite facing jail sentences and legal battles, activists in Thailand continue to push for reform and change within the political system.

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