Thai court jails man for six years over royal insult posts on Facebook

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s criminal court on Wednesday jailed a man for six years for Facebook comments deemed to be an insult to the country’s king, in what one rights group called the toughest sentence by a civilian court for a single such offence.

The country’s strict lese-majeste law makes it a crime to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir to the throne or regent. The military government has stepped up prosecutions of those accused of defamation, giving out harsher sentences.

Piya Julkittipan, 46, was arrested in December 2014, eight months after the military took power in a coup.

He was found guilty on Wednesday of breaking the lese-majeste law and infringing the Computer Crimes Act for posting two pictures with messages on social media site Facebook insulting King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 88.

“The Criminal Court sentenced Piya to nine years in prison, which was the highest sentence the civilian court has ever given for one count of lese-majeste,” Thai human rights group iLaw said in a statement.

The world’s longest-serving monarch, King Bhumibol has been in hospital since May, receiving treatment for multiple illnesses. Nervousness over his health and the succession has formed the backdrop to a decade of political crisis in Thailand.

Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Clarence Fernandez