Man in Thailand sentenced to prison for 35 years — and it’s for the most outrageous reason
A Thai man was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Friday for allegedly insulting the nation’s monarchy on Facebook, the harshest sentence handed down for such a crime in recent history.
In 2015, Vichai Thepwong, 34, a former insurance salesman, was arrested for posting 10 Facebook messages and images online that were “deemed insulting to the monarchy,” according to a report by Channel NewsAsia.
Vichai’s initial sentence was for 70 years, but it was halved after he pleaded guilty to the offenses. Vichai’s lawyer has said his client will not appeal the decision, hoping instead to secure a royal pardon.
Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn has reportedly worked harder than his father — the previous king who ruled for more than 70 years — did to silence detractors of his regime by imprisoning people critical of his government.
In May, the Thai Internet Service Provider Association emailed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to request that Facebook block posts showing illegal images of the king after a video of King Vajiralongkorn wearing a crop top was posted repeatedly on the site. Thailand then sued Facebook for failing to comply.
In May, the Japan Times published an article about a newly constructed prison at Dhaveevatthana Palace, one of the king’s residences in Bangkok. In the story, Pavin Chachavalpongpun explains the prison is used by the king to imprison high-profile people who insult or betray him. Chachavalpongpun wrote two of the prison’s most recent residents, police Maj. Prakrom Warunprapha and Maj. Gen. Phisitsak Seniwongse na Ayutthaya, were mysteriously found dead after being imprisoned for allegedly embezzling money from the king’s “Bike for Mom” campaign. (You can’t make this stuff up.)