January 20, 2009 / 9:18 AM / 11 years ago

FACTBOX: Lese majeste cases in Thailand

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai police formally charged leading leftist commentator Giles Ungpakorn on Tuesday with insulting the king, the latest in a slew of lese majeste cases critics say are stifling dissent and freedom of speech.

Following are details of some of those who have recently fallen foul of the law, which carries between 3 and 15 years in prison for insults or threats to the deeply revered monarchy.

In many cases, the status of the investigation is unclear due to police reluctance to discuss the taboo issue of the monarchy’s role in politics, which is officially nil.

JAKRAPOB PENKAIR - A spokesman for ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Jakrapob had to resign as a minister in the pro-Thaksin government in May after being accused of slandering the king in a talk at Bangkok’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

JONATHAN HEAD - The British BBC correspondent in Bangkok has received three lese majeste complaints. One was related to an online BBC story not written by Head which did not place the photograph of the king at the top of the page, as is customary in Thailand.

CHOTISAK ONSOONG - The young political activist was accused by police in April of insulting the monarchy for refusing to stand during the royal anthem that precedes all movie screenings in Thailand.

JITRA KOTCHADEJ - A union activist and friend of Chotisak, Jitra was fired by bosses at her clothing factory in August for appearing on a TV panel discussion wearing a T-shirt saying “Not standing is not a crime,” a reference to Chotisak.

It is not known if she has been charged by police.

SULAK SIVARAKSA - A leading academic and long-time critic of the lese majeste law, the 75-year-old was taken from his Bangkok home late one night in November and driven 450 km (280 miles) to a police station in the northeast province of Khon Kaen.

There, he was charged with insulting the monarchy in a university lecture he gave in December the previous year.

HARRY NICOLAIDES - An Australian author, English teacher and long-time resident of Thailand, Nicolaides was sentenced to three years in jail this week for defaming the crown prince in his 2005 novel, ‘Verisimilitude’. Only seven copies of the book were sold.

DARUNEE CHARNCHOENGSILPAKUL - More commonly known as “Da Torpedo,” the pro-Thaksin campaigner was arrested in July after delivering an exceptionally strong 30-minute speech denouncing the 2006 coup and the monarchy.

She is thought still to be behind bars, although it is not known if she has been formally charged.

SUWICHA THAKHOR - Suwicha was arrested last week on suspicion of posting comments on the Internet that insulted the monarchy. His arrest coincided with a speech by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva saying the law should not be abused.

OLIVER JUFER - The Swiss national was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2007 for spraying black paint on huge public portraits of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He was pardoned and deported after serving four months.

Reporting by Ed Cropley; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Sanjeev Miglani

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