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Parents of Thai ex-princess jailed for insulting monarchy

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BANGKOK >> The parents of the now-estranged wife of Thailand’s crown prince were sentenced Wednesday to two and a half years in prison on charges of defaming the monarchy, in the latest legal action against relatives of the former princess, who until recently was in line to be the country’s next queen.

The well-publicized split of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and his third wife, former Princess Srirasmi, has been accompanied by a public shaming of a number of her family members, who have been accused of insulting the monarchy, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Those prosecuted for various offenses include a former senior police officer.

The court found Srirasmi’s parents, Wantanee Suwadee, 66, and Apiruj Suwadee, 72, had misused the crown prince’s name during a dispute in 2003 with a neighbor who was then prosecuted on a bogus fraud charge.

When earlier presented with the charges against them, the pair announced they did not want to use a lawyer and pleaded guilty.

“The court has examined the surrounding witnesses and evidence, together with the plea, and decided that both defendants were guilty as charged,” the judge said. “The accused confessed to the charges and as a result their sentence is reduced to two years and six months each without suspension.”

Guilty pleas in Thai courts traditionally result in more lenient sentencing, typically a halving of prison time. Acquittals are rare in cases of insulting the monarchy — called lese majeste — which is regarded as a socially abhorrent crime, though prosecutions sometimes appear to be politically motivated.

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