BANGKOK: A Thai political activist imprisoned under the kingdom’s controversial laws against insulting the monarchy was released yesterday after receiving a royal pardon.
Surachai Danwattananusorn, 71, was sentenced to a total of 12 years and six months in jail in 2012 on a series of charges for remarks made in speeches to supporters of his “Red Siam” group.
“I feel very happy and extremely appreciative for the mercy of the king,” Surachai said after his release.
“Without the royal pardon, I would have been there until I’m 80,” added the activist, who served two years and seven months in the high-security Bangkok Remand Prison including pre-trial detention.
His wife Pranee, 56, said Surachai had experienced “many difficult incidents” while in prison.
“It was intense for him. A 70-year-old man shouldn’t have to face things like that,” she said.
Thai courts have in recent times handed down a series of tough sentences for insulting the monarchy, to the dismay of human rights campaigners.
Surachai requested a pardon three times before he was released, his lawyer Karom Polpornklang said.
The royal family is an extremely sensitive subject in Thailand, but calls for reform of the strict lese majeste legislation have grown following several high-profile convictions.
Under the legislation, anyone convicted of insulting the Thai king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count.
“It would be good if we can amend this law -- to benefit not only the people but also the king,” Surachai said.
Lèse majesté, is the crime of violating majesty, has been prohibited by the Law of Thailand since 1908.