Students admit insulting Thai royals in theatre play

Patiwat Saraiyaem (centre) is escorted by prison officials as he arrives at the criminal court in Bangkok on October 27, 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Patiwat Saraiyaem (centre) had no intention of insulting the monarchy, his father said

Two Thai students have admitted insulting royalty in a play they performed about a 1973 uprising.

Patiwat Saraiyaem, 23, and Pornthip Munkong, 25, face up to 15 years in jail under lese majeste laws, which protect the royals from any insults.

The play called Wolf Bride featured a fictional king and his advisor.

Thailand's lese majeste laws are the world's strictest, but critics say they are often used to settle personal rows or silence political opposition.

The play was performed at Bangkok's Thammasat University in October 2013, but the pair were not arrested until August this year.

Both students have been denied bail, and have been held in custody since their arrest.

Several other people involved with the performance are also facing charges.

Thailand's lese majeste laws

  • Article 112 of criminal code says anyone who "defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent" will be punished with up to 15 years in prison
  • Law remained largely unchanged since 1908
  • Use widened in recent years, snaring academics, journalists, policemen, activists and even a 61-year-old grandfather

Lese majeste laws explained

'Just an actor'

The two students were brought to court barefoot, Patiwat with his feet bound in chains, AFP news agency reported.

They each admitted one charge of lese majeste in the hope of escaping a custodial sentence.

The judge said they would be sentenced in February.

"My boy did not intend to insult the monarchy, he is just an actor," Patiwat's father Aiyakan Saraiyaem told AFP outside the court.

The offending content of the play has not been made public.

Media outlets operating in Thailand cannot report the details of lese majeste without leaving themselves open to similar charges.

Journalists have frequently been denounced under the laws.

The military ousted the elected government earlier this year and promised to rigidly enforce the lese majeste laws.

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