On 13 December, lawmaker Rukchanok Srinok was sentenced to 6 years in prison under Section 112 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crimes Act for 2 social media posts on X made in 2020.
“Detaining Rukchanok without a legitimate basis is not just an affront to justice; it’s an embodiment of arbitrary power. The authorities, by invoking Section 112, have transformed a legal code into a weapon against dissent, a stark violation of the very principles that should uphold justice,” said Senior Director of Programmes David Diaz-Jogeix at ARTICLE 19. “Her conviction reflects the draconian nature of Thailand’s lese majeste laws, stifling any dissidence and restricting the right to express legitimate concerns about government actions and policies.”
Rukchanok Srinok, a 29-year-old lawmaker affiliated with the Move Forward Party in Thailand, has been convicted of the lese majeste law, which imposes severe penalties for criticising the royal family. One of Rukchanok’s posts criticized the government’s Covid-19 vaccine procurement involving a pharmaceutical company linked to the king, while the other was a retweet of a photo from a 2020 protest containing anti-monarchy messages. Rukchanok has been granted bail pending her appeal. In response to the situation, she expressed her intention to be a voice for all defendants facing Article 112 charges to be granted bail to continue to carry out her duties at the Parliament.
Rukchanok rose to prominence as an advocate within a youth-led democracy movement opposing the government, advocating for reforms within the palace and changes to the lese-majeste law. The movement drew substantial crowds to demand democratic reforms. Subsequently, she joined Move Forward, a political party advocating for amendments to lese majeste law. Rukchanok secured a parliamentary seat in the May 2023 general election. Despite winning the election, the party faced challenges in forming a government due to staunch opposition from lawmakers aligned with the royalist military.
“True progress in a society is intricately linked to the principles of democracy and the protection of fundamental rights, particularly the right to free expression. Suppressing criticism through laws that criminalise dissent not only stifles individual expression but also hampers the collective growth of a society,” said David. “A forward-looking, democratic authority should prioritize the protection of citizens’ rights, fostering an environment where differing opinions contribute to a dynamic and informed public discourse.”