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Flinging Facebook insults at Thai monarchy earns fat jail terms

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Facebook users in Thailand, who take to the site to grumble about the Thai monarchy, have been warned that tough lese majeste laws will be brought against them.

The country's Information and Communications Technology minister, Anudith Nakornthap, said that if such users "share" or "like" articles on Facebook that are considered to insult the Thai royal family, they could face sentences of between three and 15 years in jail – as laid out in Thailand's Computer Crimes Act.

According to AFP, the dominant social network was asked to remove over 10,000 pages of material that contained images or text that the Thai ministry said was "offensive" to the monarchy.

That request came just one day after a man was jailed for 20 years by a Thai court after being found to have sent four text messages from his phone that were labelled as disparaging towards the ruling family.

Nakornthap told the news wire that thousands of web links on Facebook "insulted" the monarchy.

Those who highlight such posts by either sharing or "liking" them on the network could be deemed by a Thai court as having indirectly disseminated such material to other online users in the country.

A wider crackdown on such free speech on the web is already seemingly underway in Thailand.

A Thai-born US citizen, Joe Wichai Commart Gordon, recently pleaded guilty offending the royal family after he translated a barred biography of the world's longest-reigning monarch, 83-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

In October, a UN human rights expert called on Thailand to amend laws that impose such jail terms on “whoever defames, insults or threatens” the Thai royal family.

Frank La Rue said that the "vagueness" of such allegations contravened international treaties.

“The recent spike in lese majeste cases pursued by the police and the courts shows the urgency to amend them,” he said. ®

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