Thai monarchy’s prisoner dies in jail

King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand and his wife Queen Sirikit greet a select crowd;  photo: Bloomberg News

From Reuters:

Thai royal insult prisoner “Uncle SMS” dies in jail

Tue May 8, 2012 2:57am EDT

A Thai man who was jailed for 20 years after being found guilty of sending text messages disrespectful to Queen Sirikit has died in jail a few months into his sentence, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

The case last November of Amphon Tangnoppaku, 61, who the media nicknamed “Uncle SMS”, had stoked a debate about the harsh sentences imposed in Thailand for lese-majeste, or insulting the king, queen or crown prince.

“Uncle was admitted to the prison’s infirmary unit after experiencing severe stomach pains since Friday,” Amphon’s lawyer, Anon Numpa, told Reuters. “We haven’t found out the cause of death yet but he had been battling cancer.”

During his trial, Amphon had denied sending the SMS messages to a government official, saying he did not even know how to send such messages from his mobile telephone.

Successive governments have ignored international calls to reform the lese-majeste laws, a highly sensitive issue in a country where 84-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej is regarded as semi-divine.

The laws are increasingly questioned in Thailand itself, with some critics arguing the legislation is abused to discredit activists and politicians opposed to the royalist establishment.

Lawyer Anon also said a request for a royal pardon for another client, Lerpong Wichaikhammat, known as Joe Gordon, had been approved by the Ministry of Justice and was being forwarded to the Bureau of the Royal Household.

Gordon, a Thai-born U.S. citizen, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail in December 2011 after pleading guilty to using the Internet to disseminate information that insulted the monarchy.

10 thoughts on “Thai monarchy’s prisoner dies in jail

  1. Moderator offends Thai royals with pace

    Wednesday 30 May 2012

    A Thai court handed a webmaster an eight-month suspended sentence on Wednesday for failing to act quickly enough to remove internet posts deemed insulting to the monarchy.

    Many viewed the sentence as lenient as Chiranuch Premchaiporn had faced up to 20 years in prison for 10 comments posted by other people on the Prachatai site she moderates.

    Ms Chiranuch was prosecuted under Thailand’s 2007 internet laws.

    They were enacted by the unelected government which ousted former PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

    The laws deal with hacking and other online offences but also ban circulating material deemed detrimental to national security – including defaming the monarchy.

    The Bangkok Criminal Court judge said his guilty verdict was based on one post left on the site for 20 days.

    Ms Chiranuch had “allowed the inappropriate posting to be on the website for too long,” the judge said.


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