Thousands granted royal amnesty in Thailand

Late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The kingdom of Thailand pardoned and cut short thousands of prisoners’ sentences to mark the eve of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s birth date.

According to a report from Al Jazeera quoting the Royal Gazette, incumbent king Maha Vajiralongkorn issued a royal decree granting pardons to 30,000 prisoners and reducing the sentences of 200,000 others.

Among the prisoners who received reduced sentences were newsman Sorrayuth Suthassanachinda, red-shirt protest leader Nattawut Saikuar, and former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom.

In January this year, Suthassanachinda was sentenced to eight years in prison after an associate reportedly failed to disclose excess earnings from television commercials during his news programs in periods between Feb 4, 2005, to Apr 28, 2006.

According to a report from the Bangkok Post quoting an unidentified source, Suthassanachinda could be released by March next year.

Meanwhile, Saikuar was put behind bars for his political activities in support of former prime ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck. He was sentenced to two years and eight months in jail for leading a violent protest 13 years ago outside late Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda’s house.

Saikuar was expected for release by New Year. However, he could still return to jail to face other charges filed against him.

Boonsong, a former commerce minister, was slapped with 48 years in prison for his involvement in the corrupt government-to-government rice-pledging scheme during Yingluck’s term.

According to the report quoting the Department of Corrections, some 247,557 prisoners out of 344,161 currently qualify for sentence reductions.

Since assuming the highest post in Thailand, King Vajiralongkorn has since faced criticisms, with hundreds of thousands of protesters demanding him to step down and calling for a reform of the monarchy.

Following a series of protests which also called for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, police have since summoned activist leaders to face charges of insulting the monarchy.

Thailand has one of the harshest royal defamation laws in the world as even content posted or shared on social media could be used as proof interpreted as criticism of the monarchy.

Under the country’s section 112 of the penal code, anyone convicted of defaming, insulting, or threatening the king, queen, or the heir, faces between three and 15 years in prison on each count.

Photo from Flickr