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New Thai king pardons 150,000 prisoners – including some jailed for insulting royal family

'This is the first opportunity since his majesty’s ascension to show his mercy'

Gabriel Samuels
Tuesday 13 December 2016 12:01 GMT
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King Maha Vajiralongkorn is seeking to 'stabilise' Thailand after years of political troubles
King Maha Vajiralongkorn is seeking to 'stabilise' Thailand after years of political troubles (AFP/Getty Images)

The new king of Thailand will pardon up to 150,000 prisoners in an unprecedented display of mercy, including some inmates jailed for insulting the royal family.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who assumed power after his father Bhumibol Adulyadej died in October, will allow thousands of prisoners to be released or have their sentences shortened, with each case being assessed individually according to state officials.

Those jailed for insulting the king and his family, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison under section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, will be considered for release alongside prisoners convicted of drug offences.

“This is the first opportunity since his majesty’s ascension to show his mercy,” the royal family said in a statement. “This will provide a chance for these individuals to behave as good citizens.”

The 2014 coup d’etat in Thailand saw the largest amount of people jailed for insulting royalty in the nation’s history, including one man who was jailed for 60 years.

In July, Thailand’s Department for Corrections said there were 321,347 people being held in Thai prisons, with around 70 per cent of those jailed for drugs-related offences. Inmates will be considered for release based on age, length of sentence and behaviour.

The coronation of King Vajiralongkorn, who has spent much of his adult life in Europe, was praised by diplomats as “highlighting a desire for stability and continuity in Thailand”.

The king will seek to mend a nation which has seen a cycle of political protests and coups by an arch-royalist military over the past decade.

In October, a Thai woman accused of insulting the king’s late father was forced to kneel in front of his portrait at a police station, while awaiting trial and a likely prison sentence.

Last year, a factory worker was sent to prison for posting a “sarcastic” comment on social media about the king’s dog, which was noticed by the authorities.

The BBC is currently under investigation in Thailand for allegedly defaming the country's newly crowned king, after it published a profile of him online and attracted criticism on social media

Additional reporting by Reuters

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