Arnon Nampa's second recent arbitrary conviction for lèse-majesté (defamation of the king) charges in Thailand on 17 January 2024 demonstrates the significant and continuing threat the law still poses to Thai activists and rights lawyers. You can read the full statement below and a pdf version here.  

Arnon Nampa (Photo credit: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha)

Arnon Nampa’s Latest Conviction under the Lèse-Majesté Law in Thailand Emphasizes that the Law Remains a Significant Threat against Activists and Rights Lawyers in 2024

18 January 2024

1.      Arnon Nampa’s Latest Conviction

On 17 January 2024, activist lawyer Arnon Nampa was convicted to a four year sentence for three social media posts he made in 2021 under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act and its draconian lèse-majesté law, which criminalizes defamatory speech against Thailand’s king or royal family.[1] Arnon’s posts, made on January 1 and 3, 2021, were deemed to defame, express hatred towards, and lead to public misunderstanding about the king and monarchy. In the posts, Arnon stated that the lèse-majesté law has been used to crackdown on protestors and activists and that he regretted the king assuming personal control of the monarchy’s assets, calling for the institution’s reform.[2] Arnon has already been imprisoned for over 300 days, and he had already been serving a previous four-year sentence handed down in September 2023 under a previous lèse-majesté charge, with the new conviction being applied consecutively, bringing his total sentence up to eight years.[3] He is currently making moves to appeal his convictions as he serves his consecutive sentence.

Notably, Arnon’s September 2023 and January 2024 convictions are only the first two of 14 lèse-majesté charges against him, each one evidently promising an additional four year sentence, and he also faces other charges including sedition, computer crimes, and violating Covid-related rules.[4]

2.      Introducing the Lèse-Majesté Law

To put the convictions into context, one of the notable developments in the suppression of human rights and pro-democracy voices in Thailand since protests broke out in 2020 has been significant use of the lèse-majesté law. The law, under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, criminalizes defamation, insults, or threats against the king and his family, and it carries a sentence of three to 15 years imprisonment. Since its adoption, authorities have used the law to crack down on critics, political opposition, human rights defenders, and attempts at legal reform, leading to about 280 people being arrested under it since 2020.[5] Some have received unreasonably long sentences, such as two activists receiving sentences of 28 years and 43 years in 2023 and 2021, respectively.[6]

The law has been heavily criticized by UN human rights bodies and international human rights groups.[7] Examples of activities that have been charged include wearing allegedly insulting costumes, posting parody cartoons and social media posts, and speeches and activities deemed critical of the royal family.[8] Attempts to amend the law, such as the Move Forward party’s pledge for modest reform, have been met with crackdowns, including military-appointed senators blocking the party from taking power after winning the 2023 election and charges being lodged against the party and its leader for attempting to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the king as a head of state.[9]

3.      Arnon’s Previous Conviction

Previous to Arnon’s latest conviction and as mentioned above, on 26 September 2023 Arnon was convicted to a four year sentence and fined 20,000 Thai baht (about $550 USD) for remarks he made during a large rally in October 2020 at Bangkok’s Victory Monument, following other speeches that also led to lèse-majesté and sedition charges.[10] The Victory Monument rally followed the dissolution of the major opposition party in February 2020, which had been critical of the then junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who came into a power during a military coup in May 2014. The crisis led to mass protests in 2020-2021 against the junta involving over a hundred-thousand protestors, and over 1,900 people were reportedly charged for their participation under various laws, including at least 280 people facing lèse-majesté charges and at least 116 facing sedition charges.[11] Arnon’s remarks called for the resignation of Prayuth and public debate on a constitutional reform of the monarchy, with the prosecutor focusing on Arnon’s comment that any order to break up the rally would come only from the king, not police, which the prosecutor successfully argued was defamatory to the king.[12] Arnon claimed the comment was only intended to prevent a police crackdown.[13] Contrary to past arrests, Arnon was eventually denied bail because his actions were said to undermine Thailand’s democratic system by disagreeing with the king’s role atop the political structure.[14] Shortly before his conviction, it was reported that on 5 August 2023, Apiwat Kanthong, the lawyer of Prayuth Chan-O-Cha, filed a complaint to remove Arnon as a member of Thailand’s Lawyers Council, and on 7 August, as a result of the complaint, proceedings were begun to disbar Arnon for his 2020 speeches for violating the Lawyers Council of Thailand’s disciplinary rules because he allegedly “distorted facts, delivered defamatory speech, incited unrest, caused damage, and showed contempt for the monarchy, with the aim to disunity in the country.”[15] Notably, Arnon’s latest two convictions were only the latest in a line of arbitrary arrests and charges for his statements and activities as an activist and human rights lawyer.

4.      Arnon’s Experience as a Rights Lawyer

Arnon first became prominent as a lawyer defending members of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (called red shirts), and over 100 other pro-red shirt participants in protests calling for a new election and criticizing the then military government, which had gained power during a 2006 coup and which was met by a severe police crackdown and mass arrests in May 2010.

Arnon also defended many of the most prominent lèse-majesté cases, including Chotisak Onsoong, who was arrested for refusing to stand during the royal anthem before a movie in 2007 and who eventually fled Thailand (the case was later dropped in 2012);[16] Suwicha Thakor, who was arrested for posting allegedly defamatory content against the king online, for which he received a 10 year sentence in 2009;[17] and Ampon Tangnoppakul, who was arrested for phone messages sent to the secretary of the Prime Minister deemed offensive to the king and queen, for which he was sentenced to 20 years in 2011, later dying in prison in 2012, which sparked renewed widespread criticism of the lèse-majesté law.[18] Following the spike in lèse-majesté charges in 2020, he also defended Thanakorn Siripaiboon, charged with a parody social media post about the king’s dog, as well as his mother who was charged 15 years for commenting “Ja” to the post.[19] He also defended prominent activists and groups Thanet Anantawong,[20] the Dao Din group,[21] and Jatupat Boonpattararaksa.[22]

Arnon’s law firm was closed in 2013 following the political crisis leading-up to the 2014 coup. Shortly following that coup, Arnon and others founded Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, which particularly focused on defending critics arrested by the junta. Arnon also began to defend other prominent activists as a rights lawyer, including Ekachai Hongkangwan, who was first arrested and imprisoned in 2016 under the lèse-majesté law for selling a censored CD of a Australian documentary on monarchic succession and later imprisoned again for writing about the appalling conditions he witnessed in prison;[23] and Phai Dao-din, who was arrested in December 2016 on lèse-majesté charges and has been arrested several times since, including for sedition in 2020 and lèse-majesté a second time in 2021.[24]

5.      Arnon’s Experience as an Activist

Arnon has also long been engaged in political activism, which has been the source of many of his arrests. He was charged several times throughout 2015 and 2016 for criticizing the cancelled 2014 election, civilians facing military courts, alleged government corruption, and military harassment of activists.[25] In 2017, 2018, and 2020 he was charged under the Computer Crime Act for posting stories on his social media including human rights cases, the parody story on the king’s dog, and criticism of the royal budget.[26] Between 2014-2019, Arnon faced 11 criminal proceedings for his statements and activism.[27]

Following the king’s emergency decree in September 2019, Arnon faced more serious charges when he broke the taboo against public and open criticism of the royal family in Thailand several times from August to October 2020, for which he was charged several times, culminating in the two convictions and two four year sentences for lèse-majesté charges mentioned at the start of this statement.

6.      A Call to Action

ALN protests the arbitrary arrests and convictions of Arnon Nampa and other activists in Thailand for their political speech and activism, which transparently violate their right to freedom of expression and freedom from arbitrary detention; and we call on the government to reverse the convictions and to repeal and reform the lèse-majesté and related laws to prevent future harassment and arbitrary arrests.

As an organization focused on the protection of rights lawyers, we also find it particularly concerning that Arnon’s law firm was closed in 2013 due to his activism, and that his status as a member of the Lawyers Council and as a lawyer were arbitrarily attacked in 2023, including by disbarment proceedings, due to his political speech. The severe harassment and punishment surrounding Thailand’s lèse-majesté law not only deters pro-democracy activism, but cases like Arnon’s demonstrate they also have the potential to deter the work of rights lawyers to defend other activists subjected to arbitrary arrest and harassment.

[1] The Nation, "3 Facebook posts lands anti-lese majeste lawyer with another 4 years in jail", 17 Jan. 2024,; Panarat Thepgumpanat and Panu Wongcha-um, "Thai lawyer who called for monarchy reform sentenced to more jail time", Reuters, 17 Jan. 2024,

[2] La Prensa Latina, "Thai protest leader imprisoned 4 more years for criticizing king", 17 Jan. 2024,

[3] See citations, infra, note 10.

[4] Rebecca Ratcliffe, "Thai pro-democracy activist jailed for speaking out at monarchy protest", The Guardian, 26 Sept. 2023,; Subel Rai Bhandari and Nontarat Phaicharoen, "Thai Court Frees Pro-Democracy Activist-Leader", Benar News, 28 Feb. 2022,

[5] For further background on the law and its use in crackdowns, see Pavin Chachavalpongpun, "An Unreconciled Gap: Thailand’s Human Rights Foreign Policy versus Its Lèse-majesté Crisis", Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs,11 Dec. 2023,; Amnesty International, "Thailand: Rights lawyer imprisoned for peaceful protest: Arnon Nampa", 18 Dec. 2023,

[6] DW, "Thai court jails man for 28 years over monarchy comments", 26 Jan. 2023,

[7] OHCHR, "Thailand: UN experts alarmed by rise in use of lèse-majesté laws", 8 Feb. 2021,; OHCHR, "Thailand: UN rights expert concerned by the continued use of lèse-majesté prosecutions", 6 Feb. 2017

[8] The Guardian, supra, note 4.

[9] Rebecca Ratcliffe and Navaon Siradapuvadol, “Thailand’s winning candidate for PM blocked from power”, The Guardian, 13 July 2023,; id.; Francesca Regaldo, "Thailand court sentences Move Forward MP to jail for lese-majeste", 13 Dec. 2023, Nikkei Asia;; Human Rights Watch, "Thailand: Lawmaker Sentenced for ‘Insulting Monarchy’ ", 14 Dec. 2023,; Panu Wongcha-um, "Thai parliamentarian sentenced to jail for insulting monarchy", Reuters, 13 Dec. 2023,

[10] Jintamas Saksornchai, "Prominent Thai human rights lawyer accused of insulting the king receives a 4-year prison term", AP News, 26 Sept. 2023,; The Guardian/Reuters, "Thailand protesters openly criticise monarchy in Harry Potter-themed rally", 4 Aug. 2020,; Laignee Barron, "‘I Think Our Goal Is Worthy for Everyone in Thailand.’ Meet the Lawyer Trying to Reform the Thai Monarchy", Time, 21 Sept. 2020,

[11] Thai PBS World, "Amnesty, Rung Panusaya seek end to alleged Thai Government human rights violations", 1 Nov. 2021,; Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, "December 2023", Benar News, supra, note 4.

[12] The Guardian, supra, note 4.

[13] Id.

[14] Yuxin Nie, "Thailand court denies bail to prominent protest leader Arnon Nampa", 1 Oct. 2023, Jurist,

[15] Panagiotis Perakis, "Subject: Disbarment proceeding against lawyer Arnon Nampa", CCBE, 26 June 2023,

[16] SCMP/Bloomberg, "In Thailand, cinema-goers’ refusal to stand for royal anthem reveals changing attitudes towards monarchy", 8 Nov. 2021,; The Nation, "Prosecutors not to try Chotisak for royal insult", 18 Jan. 2024,

[17] Suwicha Thakor, "Internet user gets ten years in jail for posting content that "defamed" monarchy", Reporters Without Borders, 3 Apr. 2009,

[18] Thomas Fuller, "Thai Man Jailed for Insulting King Dies in Detention", New York Times, 5 Sept. 2012,

[19] Oliver Holmes, "Thai man faces jail for insulting king's dog with 'sarcastic' internet post", The Guardian, 15 Dec. 2015,

[20] Human Rights Watch, "Thailand: Jailed Activist Needs Urgent Medical Care", 15 Dec. 2015,

[21] John Draper, "Isaan Update: Focus on the Dao Din (Part 1)", Prachatai English, 4 Jan. 2018,

[22] Human Rights Watch, "Thailand: Activists Jailed for Criticizing Monarchy", 9 Mar. 2021,

[23] San Diego Union Tribune, "Defaming Thai royalty leads to social stigma for offenders", 19 Jul. 2016,; UCANews, "Thai activist sent back to jail for writing about prison conditions", 22 Apr. 2022,

[24] Wikipedia, “Jatupat Boonpattararaksa”, visited 17 Jan. 2024,

[25] Wikipedia, “Arnon Nampa”, visited 17 Jan. 2024,, citations 15 to 22.

[26] Id.

[27] Amnesty International, "Thailand: Rights lawyer imprisoned for peaceful protest: Arnon Nampa", 18 Dec. 2023,