May 30, 2012 / 5:37 AM / in 5 years

Thai webmaster gets suspended sentence in royal insult case

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A Thai website editor was found guilty on Wednesday of insulting the monarchy but was given a suspended jail sentence, a light punishment in a high-profile case that has renewed the debate over strict royal censorship laws.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn, director of Prachatai news website, arrives at a court hearing for her verdict in a computer crime case in Bangkok April 30, 2012.REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang/Files

Judge Kampol Rungrat told the Bangkok Criminal Court that some posts on the Prachatai news website had been offensive to the royal family and that Chiranuch Premchaiporn, its editor, had not respected a court order to remove them promptly. At least one had remained on the website for 20 days.

“It was found that the content posted on Prachatai’s website did indeed cause damage to the reputation of the king, queen and heir apparent,” the judge told a Bangkok criminal court.

He therefore sentenced Chiranuch, an award-winning editor, to eight months in prison for contravening a Computer Crimes Act but suspended the jail term for one year because she had admitted her guilt.

The act is used along with a law on lese-majeste to penalise insults against the king, queen and crown prince, but critics say the legislation is used in a heavy-handed way to discredit activists and politicians opposed to the royalist establishment.

The number of cases has soared in recent years, coinciding with a period of political turbulence.

This month, Amphon Tangnoppaku, 61, died in jail after being sentenced last November to 20 years for sending text messages defaming and threatening Queen Sirikit. The evidence was felt by many to be flimsy and he denied the charge, saying he did not even know how to send a text message.

Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Alan Raybould and Robert Birsel

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