Military court halves prison terms after defendants plead guilty to role in underground order set up to destabilize Thailand
By CS Thana
BANGKOK – A Thai military court has sentenced 10 people accused of being behind an underground network set up to destabilize the country to up to five years in prison.
A court spokesperson who remained unnamed in accordance with protocol told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday that eight suspects were handed five-year prison terms and two others two-year terms.
The military court, used by the ruling junta to prosecute dissidents and political criminals, passed the sentences — reduced from ten- and six-years due to the suspects entering guilty pleas — early Tuesday morning.
The defendants confessed they were behind the “Banpodj network,” a loose online affiliation that has produced anti-monarchy content and called for a republic.
The network was brought down after their leader Hasadin Uraipraiwan – who had a Bht200,000 ($6100) bounty on his head — was arrested by a military-appointed task force in February.
Thailand’s stringent lese-majeste law, which can lead to imprisonment of between three and 15 years, is interpreted widely by courts and prohibits public discussion of the royal family.
The monarchy is highly revered in Thailand and considered out of bounds for discussion by both the ruling junta and conservative elements within society.
“Banpodj network” message boards are renowned among “Red Shirts” — supporters of the deposed Shinawatra clan, long at odds with the conservative establishment — for comments critical of the country’s military junta and the rival Democrat Party.
The government of Yingluck Shinawatra — the sister of Shinawatra clan head Thaksin, the establishment’s ten-year nemesis — was overthrown by the ruling military junta in a May 22 coup.
Since the ruling Thai junta overthrew Yingluck’s government, the number of cases of people detained for lese-majeste — either awaiting trial or already sentenced — has jumped.
The exact number of detainees has not, however, been made public.
Release on bail is systemically denied for those charged and all lese-majeste trials since the coup have been held on camera in front of a military court.