Thai activist jailed over calls for royal reforms

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STORY: Arnon Nampa, an activist and lawyer in Thailand has been sentenced to four years in prison for royal insults.

He became famous for his open calls for reform of Thailand's powerful monarchy.

In remarks he made as he arrived at court on Tuesday (September 26), Arnon acknowledged he would likely lose his freedom.

But said he had no regrets for what was "a worthwhile personal sacrifice for the greater good."

“I think that the youth protest has created a phenomenon that has changed Thailand to the point of no return. I believe people are becoming more confident in their freedoms and equality and are ready to transform the country to be more progressive."

Arnon was a leader of a youth-led democracy movement that held protests in Bangkok in 2020.

Hundreds of thousands of people demanded the removal of royalist prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power in a coup.

At one rally, Arnon gave a taboo-breaking speech and called for public debate on the role of Thailand's king.

He denies wrongdoing.

Thailand's lese-majeste law shields the palace from criticism and carries a maximum jail sentence of 15 years for each perceived insult of the monarchy.

It is a punishment widely condemned by international human rights groups as extreme.

Arnon's verdict will be a setback for groups seeking amendments to one of the world's strictest royal insults laws, known as article 112.

According to a legal aid group at least 257 people have been charged under 112 in the past three years.

Most of those cases are related to the democracy movement, which has lost momentum having once posed one of the biggest challenges to Thailand's royalist, conservative establishment.

The palace typically does not comment on the law.