UPDATED: Chiang Mai Businessman Jailed for Five Years for Lese-Majeste

 | Wed 16 Jul 2014 21:26 ICT

UPDATE: Following a request from Army Region 33, CityNews has removed a photo of His Majesty the King that was originally used to illustrate this story.

CityNews – A businessman from Chiang Mai was sentenced to five years in prison for lese-majeste on Tuesday, after the Appeals Court reversed an initial verdict of not guilty.

The defendant, Assawin, was sued by a woman who claimed to have sold him a resort, reports said. His surname was withheld.

Sakawdeun Chariyakornkul had accused him of defaming the Crown Prince and His Majesty the King, but Assawin testified that he and Sakawdeun had been involved in a business conflict. A lower court had dismissed the case against him in 2013, due to a lack of evidence.

The number of lese-majeste prisoners is at an all-time high following the May 22 coup, according to reports.

The rights advocacy group iLaw has listed 17 cases involving people detained under Article 112 of the constitution, which prohibits criticism of the monarchy. Some have been convicted and others are awaiting trial. There may be more cases of which it is unaware, the group said.

There has been a surge in the number of lese-majeste cases since the coup, while other dissidents have been charged under the Computer Crime Act.

“Since the coup of 2006 and in particular the coup of 2014, the number of lese-majeste cases has gone up frighteningly,” academic and anti-coup activist Pavin Chachavalpongpun told CityNews.

This was partly because the military “has constantly needed to find justifications for its political interventions,” and partly because more people were talking about the role of the monarchy, he said.

Pavin, who lectures at Kyoto University’s Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, was last week stripped of his Thai passport and is currently applying for asylum in Japan.