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Thai Man Gets 2-Year Jail Term for Selling ‘Yellow Duck’ Calendar

A court in Thailand on Tuesday sentenced a 26-year-old man to two years in jail for selling calendars featuring satirical cartoons of yellow ducks that prosecutors claimed defamed the country’s monarch.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said Narathorn Chotmankongsin, whom it identified as Ton Mai, was charged with lese majeste, which forbids insulting the monarch.

Narathorn was initially given a three-year jail term for the offense, but the court eventually reduced his sentence to two years in prison without parole for his cooperation, TLHR said in a statement.

Thai police arrested Narathorn and searched his house in December 2020 due to the “yellow duck calendar 2021” that he sold on the pro-democracy Ratsadon Facebook page.

Prosecutors claimed that his calendars contained descriptions and illustrations of yellow ducks that could be interpreted as ridiculing and defaming the country’s monarch.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for the release of Narathorn, saying that the Thai authorities’ decision to jail him shows that they will try “to punish any activity they deem to be insulting the monarchy.”

“This case sends a message to all Thais, and to the rest of the world, that Thailand is moving further away from—not closer to—becoming a rights-respecting democracy,” HRW Asia director Elaine Pearson stated.

“Thai authorities should permit peaceful expression of all viewpoints, including those related to the monarchy,” Pearson added.

Thailand’s pro-democracy groups have widely used yellow ducks to signify their political cause. In November 2020, protesters used inflatable yellow ducks as shields to move against police lines.

The protests began in July 2020 and sought the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha—who is a former junta leader—changes to the constitution, and curbs on the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Concerns Over Lese Majeste

The lese majeste provision of Thailand’s criminal code prohibits people from defaming, insulting, or threatening the royal family, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Epoch Times Photo
People hold images of King Maha Vajiralongkorn during his coronation in Bangkok on May 4, 2019. (Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha)

Human rights groups have repeatedly expressed concern over the law, claiming that it restricts the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

About 201 individuals in Thailand, including 16 children, have been charged under the lese majeste law between Nov. 24, 2020, and June 16, 2022, according to the TLHR.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) stated last June that some lese majeste defendants face numerous prosecutions and prison sentences ranging from 120 to 300 years.

FIDH secretary-general Adilur Rahman Khan in a statement called on the government to put an immediate end to the lese majeste law and comply with its international human rights obligations.

“At the current pace of prosecutions, and given the traditionally high conviction rates in lese-majeste trials, Thailand may soon become one of the countries with the highest number of political prisoners in the region,” Adilur said.

In June 2022, Thai authorities arrested three social media influencers over a TikTok video advertising the e-commerce platform Lazada sales campaign, which monarchists viewed as an insult to a member of the royal family.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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