Comedian jailed for 2 years for insulting Thai royals

 Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej makes a public appearance at the open balcony of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall on Dec 5, 2012/XINHUA

Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej makes a public appearance at the open balcony of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall on Dec 5, 2012/XINHUA

BANGKOK, Jan 17 – A Thai court sentenced a comedian and renowned “Red Shirt” supporter to two years in jail on Thursday for insulting the kingdom’s revered monarchy during a speech at a mass rally in 2010, his lawyer said.

Yosawaris Chuklom, 54, who goes by the stage name Jeng Dokchik, was found guilty under Thailand’s strict lese majeste law, which punishes anyone convicted of defaming the Thai king, queen, heir or regent with up to 15 years in prison.

The comedian, who is also facing separate terrorism charges for his role in the 2010 Red Shirt street protests in Bangkok, which ended in the deaths of scores of people, is applying for bail while he appeals the verdict, his lawyer Thamrong Lakdaen said.

“Initially he was sentenced to three years but the judge reduced the sentence to two because of the evidence he gave,” he told AFP.

The royal family is a highly sensitive subject in Thailand. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 85, is revered by many Thais but has been in hospital since September 2009.

Rights campaigners allege that the lese majeste law has been politicised saying many of those charged are linked to the Red Shirt movement.

Thailand has been roiled by political divisions since a 2006 coup deposed then-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who draws on the support of the mainly rural and poor Red Shirts.

In March 2010 tens of thousands of Red Shirts converged on Bangkok demanding immediate elections.

About 90 people were killed and nearly 1,900 were wounded in street clashes between demonstrators and security forces, which culminated in a bloody military crackdown and the arrests of the movement’s leaders.

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