Thai man jailed for 25 years over royal insult posts on Facebook

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A Thai military court on Tuesday jailed a man for 25 years for posting pictures on his Facebook page deemed insulting to Thailand's monarchy, in one of the toughest such sentences in recent years. Thailand's lese-majeste law is the world's harshest and makes it a crime to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen or heir to the throne or regent. Since taking power in a May coup, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a staunch royalist, has repeatedly vowed to vigorously pursue royal insult cases and try those perceived to be anti-monarchists. In the latest case, Tiensutham Suttijitseranee, a 58-year-old businessman, was found guilty of posting defamatory content in a closed-door court sentencing, his lawyer told Reuters. "The court decided that because he posted five pictures with captions last year that the court deemed defamatory, he would be sentenced to a total of 50 years; ten years for each picture posted, reduced by half to 25 years," lawyer Sasinan Thamnithinan told Reuters, adding that the term was halved because Tiensutham pleaded guilty. The court did not allow his relatives and reporters to attend the verdict, she said. Since the coup, all lese-majeste cases have been tried by military tribunals. There have been 20 new cases involving royal defamation after the coup, deputy national police chief Jaktip Chaijinda said. An elderly man was jailed for 1-1/2 years this month for scrawling graffiti in a Bangkok shopping mall toilet. The lese-majeste prosecutions come at a sensitive time in Thailand, amid heightened anxiety over the health of the revered but ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 87, and nervousness about what a royal succession might bring. Prayuth on Tuesday said he had asked for the king's permission to lift martial law, which has been in place since before the coup 10 months ago, replacing it with a law that maintains the army's wide-ranging powers. (Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)