Jail term for Thai anti-coup female activist

BANGKOK: A Thai court sentenced an anti-coup activist to 18 years in

prison today on charges of insulting the monarchy in speeches during political rallies.

Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul, 46, was charged with violating Thailand’s lese majeste law, which mandates a jail term of three to 15 years for anyone who “defames, insults, or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent, or the Regent.” Daranee, nicknamed “Da Torpedo” for her aggressive speaking style, has been detained without bail since July 2008 for making speeches deemed insulting to the monarchy at public political gatherings. The court sentenced Daranee, a journalist-turned-activist, to six years in prison for three different remarks, said Judge Phrommaj Poosae.

“Although the defendant’s speeches did not have the intended effect because no one believed her, the defendant cannot escape her wrongdoing,” the judge said.

Dressed in an orange prison uniform, Daranee smiled and flashed a victory sign to cameras as she was escorted from the courtroom by guards. She told reporters she will appeal the verdict.

The court closed the hearings to the public. Amnesty International and other human rights groups raised concerns that the trial would not be fair as a result. The case is tied closely to the country’s bitter political division between supporters of the 2006 coup against former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who was accused of corruption, abuse of power and Thaksin loyalists and anti-coup activists, who include Daranee.