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Eight more people charged in Thailand for insulting the monarchy

Eight more people have been charged in Thailand for insulting the monarchy.

The first arrests of the eight suspects took place in May. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said that they faced charges for vandalising public portraits of Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his successor.

Among the arrested was a 14-year-old boy. If the juvenile court in the province of Khon Kaen takes on the case, it would be the first time Thailand’s royal defamation laws were used against someone under 15.

The offence, ‘Lese Majeste,’ can be punished with between three to 15 years imprisonment. The Thai military government has taken a hard stance against suspected royal defamers since they came to power in a coup in 2014. At least 93 cases involving 138 people have been prosecuted since 2014.

The suspects were not first charged in May as police said that after investigating the crime they were most likely driven by personal conflict or for local benefits. Most of the suspects are between the ages of 18 and 20 with the youngest being just 14-years-old.

The eight suspects were held for 48 days without being released. They were later re-arrested and charged on Wednesday.

It is unlikely the suspects will be granted bail as they have now been charged. They were unable to get bail when they were first detained.

Prayuth Chan-Ocha, the Thai Prime Minister, said that the King was not interested in punishing people with lese majeste laws but that the cases were necessary for national security. Prayuth stated that the protection of the monarchy was an essential part of the countries national security strategy.

He said, “Some people already know the law, but they try to defy it.”

Earlier this week, a student activist was sentenced to two and a half years in prison after he shared a BBC article about the new King on Facebook.

The article in question talked about the King Maha Vajiralongkorn when he was crown prince. It included details of three marriages which ended in divorce. The material is protected under the lese majeste laws, and Thai media companies are unable, or unwilling, to publish it.

The lese majeste laws are often criticised as being used as a tool to prosecute political dissidents.