The court ruled that the desk calendar contained images of yellow rubber ducks that mocked Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
A Thai court has sentenced a man to three years in prison – commuted to two years without parole, according to reports – after he was found guilty of selling a calendar featuring rubber duckies which the prosecution said had defamed the monarch of the country.
Bangkok Criminal Court ruled that the calendar for 2021 contained images of yellow ducks in poses that resembled and ridiculed Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn, diminishing his reputation, the group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said on Wednesday in a statement.
The suspect, Narathorn Chotmankongsin, 26, was found guilty of defamation and sentenced to three years in prison following his six-day trial which ended on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said.
The court said six illustrations of ducks in the calendar were created to poke fun at the king, according to reports.
“This case sends a message to all Thais, and to the rest of the world, that Thailand is moving away – not further – from becoming a rights-respecting democracy,” said Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights. Watch, in a statement Wednesday.
Prosecuting someone for selling satirical calendars “shows that Thai authorities are now trying to punish any activity they deem insulting to the monarchy,” Pearson said.
Thailand’s pro-democracy movement has used yellow inflatable ducks to symbolize its cause for political reform, which also includes reforming the Thai monarchy “as a fundamental step towards a democratic transition”, HRW said.
According to French news agency AFP, the suspect was initially sentenced to three years in prison after being arrested for selling the calendars on a pro-democracy Facebook page.
“But the sentence was commuted to two years without parole after the defendant gave testimony beneficial to consideration,” AFP quoted TLHR as saying.
“Yellow bath toys became an accidental symbol of the 2020 pro-democracy protest movement after protesters used large inflatable duckies to protect themselves from police tear gas and water cannons,” the report reported. AFP.
According to TLHR, more than 230 people have been charged under Thailand’s draconian lèse-majesté laws since 2020.
The law provides prison sentences ranging from three to 15 years for anyone who defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir apparent or regent. The law has long drawn criticism for its harshness and the ease with which anyone can file a complaint, which critics say has allowed its use for partisan political purposes.
The law became a focus of pro-democracy activists, who called for it to be changed or abolished.
“Thai authorities should allow the peaceful expression of all views, including those related to the monarchy,” HRW’s Pearson said.
“The government should urgently engage with United Nations experts and others to initiate a process of amending the lèse-majesté law to bring it into line with Thailand’s international obligations on of human rights.”
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