Thai man gets 2-year term for calendar said to mock king

BANGKOK (AP) — A Thai man was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday for selling calendars featuring satirical cartoons of yellow ducks that a court said mocked the country’s monarch, a legal aid group said.

Bangkok’s Criminal Court ruled that the calendar for 2021 contained pictures of yellow ducks in poses resembling and ridiculing Thailand’s king, diminishing his reputation, the group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said.

The defendant was charged under Thailand’s lese majeste law, which provides for three to 15 years’ imprisonment for anyone who defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir apparent or the regent.

The legal aid group said the 26-year-old defendant, whom it identified by the nickname Ton Mai, had his sentence reduced to two years because he cooperated with the court.

The court declared that six illustrations in the calendar were made to mock the king.

Yellow rubber ducks were at one point a tongue-in-cheek symbol of Thailand’s pro-democracy protest movement.

The lese majeste law has long drawn criticism for its harshness and a provision allowing anyone to file a complaint, allowing its use for partisan political purposes. In recent years, it has become a focus of pro-democracy activists, who have called for it to be amended or abolished.

Two young female activists seeking its repeal and other judicial reforms are reportedly in critical condition after continuing a hunger strike for more than six weeks.

At least 233 people have been charged with lese majeste since November 2021, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. Before that, prosecutions had been informally suspended, but they were revived as the protest movement gained strength and made increasingly strong criticisms of the monarchy.

The demands to reform the monarchy have been controversial because by tradition, the institution has been considered untouchable and one of the main foundations of Thai nationalism.

The Associated Press