A key Thai Red Shirt leader was on Tuesday given a suspended jail term for slander over claims he accused the former premier of sitting incorrectly during an audience with Thailand’s revered king.
Jatuporn Prompan was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for two years, after the Thai Criminal Court found him guilty of slandering former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in 2009.
The court heard that the firebrand activist accused then Thai leader of sitting on a chair of an equal height to one being used by King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
In Thailand where it is customary to remain at a lower level than the monarch, such a move could be perceived as discourteous.
In court Abhisit successfully argued that since the chair had been provided by the royal household, his sitting on it could not be seen as a mark of disrespect.
“The court finds the defendant did not honestly criticise the plaintiff,” the judge said, adding that Jatuporn had been an opposition MP for the now-ruling Puea Thai party at the time, and that his comments had “political motivation”.
Jatuporn, who is facing a slew of court cases including terrorism over massive 2010 Red Shirt protests that ended in bloodshed, saw his jail term suspended because he has not been convicted for any other crime.
He was stripped of his parliamentary seat in May after the Constitutional Court said that his election was invalid because he was held over a separate lese-majeste case at the time. He has yet to stand trial.
The monarchy is a highly sensitive topic in politically turbulent Thailand, where the 84-year-old king is revered as a demi-god by many Thais.