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Thai activist sentenced to 28 years for online posts on king

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A court in Thailand sentenced a 27-year-old political activist to 28 years in prison on Thursday for posting messages on Facebook that it said defamed the country’s monarchy, while two young women charged with the same offense continued a hunger strike after being hospitalized. The court in the northern province of Chiang Rai found that Mongkhon Thirakot violated the lese majeste law in 14 of 27 posts for which he was arrested last August. The law covers the current king, his queen and heirs, and any regent. The lese majeste law carries a prison term of three to 15 years per incident for insulting the monarchy, but critics say it is often wielded as a tool to quash political dissent. Student-led pro-democracy protests beginning in 2020 openly criticized the monarchy, previously a taboo subject, leading to vigorous prosecutions under the law, which had previously been relatively rarely employed. Since November 2020, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a legal aid organization, at least 228 people, including 18 minors, have been charged with violating the law, even as the protest movement withered due to arrests and the difficulties of conducting protests during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Chiang Rai court found that 13 messages posted by Mongkhon, an online clothing merchant, did not violate the law because they related to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the father of current King Maha Vajiralongkorn, or did not mention a specific royal figure. Mongkhon was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison for each of the other 14 posts. The 42-year total prison term was reduced by one third, to 28 years, because of Mongkhon’s cooperation with the court. Mongkhon was granted release on bail while his case in on appeal, under the conditions that he does not engage in acts that damage the monarchy or leave the country. Prosecutions under the lese majeste law have recently drawn increased public attention because of a prison hunger strike by two female activists charged with the offense. The two, Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon and Orawan “Bam” Phupong, had been free on bail but announced earlier this month that they were revoking their own release to return to prison in solidarity with others held pending trial on the same charge. They issued demands including reform of the justice system, the release of political prisoners and the restoration of civil liberties by abolishing legislation such as the lese majeste law. After three days back in prison, they began a hunger strike in which they are not consuming either food or liquids, a life-threatening tactic. On Tuesday they were transferred from the prison hospital to a state hospital with better facilities. As their strike continued, supporters staged small protests. The opposition Move Forward Party, which has been offering support, has proposed amending the lese majeste law, but no action has been taken in Parliament. The proposal would reduce the punishment for defaming the king to a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of up to 300,000 baht ($9,160), while an offense against the queen, the king’s heirs or the regent would be subject to a maximum six-month prison term and a fine of up to 200,000 baht ($6,100). “The entire Thai justice system has a problem and so does the enforcement of the lese majeste law, which is also used as a political tool. Thailand has to solve this and make its distorted justice system better,” said Pita Limjaroenrat, the party’s leader.

A court in Thailand sentenced a 27-year-old political activist to 28 years in prison on Thursday for posting messages on Facebook that it said defamed the country’s monarchy, while two young women charged with the same offense continued a hunger strike after being hospitalized.

The court in the northern province of Chiang Rai found that Mongkhon Thirakot violated the lese majeste law in 14 of 27 posts for which he was arrested last August. The law covers the current king, his queen and heirs, and any regent.

The lese majeste law carries a prison term of three to 15 years per incident for insulting the monarchy, but critics say it is often wielded as a tool to quash political dissent. Student-led pro-democracy protests beginning in 2020 openly criticized the monarchy, previously a taboo subject, leading to vigorous prosecutions under the law, which had previously been relatively rarely employed.

Since November 2020, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a legal aid organization, at least 228 people, including 18 minors, have been charged with violating the law, even as the protest movement withered due to arrests and the difficulties of conducting protests during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The Chiang Rai court found that 13 messages posted by Mongkhon, an online clothing merchant, did not violate the law because they related to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the father of current King Maha Vajiralongkorn, or did not mention a specific royal figure. Mongkhon was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison for each of the other 14 posts. The 42-year total prison term was reduced by one third, to 28 years, because of Mongkhon’s cooperation with the court.

Mongkhon was granted release on bail while his case in on appeal, under the conditions that he does not engage in acts that damage the monarchy or leave the country.

Prosecutions under the lese majeste law have recently drawn increased public attention because of a prison hunger strike by two female activists charged with the offense.

The two, Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon and Orawan “Bam” Phupong, had been free on bail but announced earlier this month that they were revoking their own release to return to prison in solidarity with others held pending trial on the same charge. They issued demands including reform of the justice system, the release of political prisoners and the restoration of civil liberties by abolishing legislation such as the lese majeste law.

After three days back in prison, they began a hunger strike in which they are not consuming either food or liquids, a life-threatening tactic. On Tuesday they were transferred from the prison hospital to a state hospital with better facilities.

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As their strike continued, supporters staged small protests.

The opposition Move Forward Party, which has been offering support, has proposed amending the lese majeste law, but no action has been taken in Parliament.

The proposal would reduce the punishment for defaming the king to a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of up to 300,000 baht ($9,160), while an offense against the queen, the king’s heirs or the regent would be subject to a maximum six-month prison term and a fine of up to 200,000 baht ($6,100).

“The entire Thai justice system has a problem and so does the enforcement of the lese majeste law, which is also used as a political tool.

Thailand has to solve this and make its distorted justice system better,” said Pita Limjaroenrat, the party’s leader.

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Ukraine sharply boosts delivery of drones to armed forces

Ukraine sharply boosts delivery of drones to armed forces

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Ukraine sharply boosts delivery of drones to armed forces

Ukraine has delivered three times more drones to its armed forces so far this year than in the whole of 2023, a top commander said, as Ukrainian forces accelerate the use of unmanned craft in the war against Russia.

“This process continues and will only grow,” said Colonel Vadym Sukharevskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s drone forces.

Ukraine, which has been fighting off a full-scale Russian invasion for nearly 26 months, is seeking to ramp up its domestic arms manufacturing and use of innovative technologies to compete against its much larger and wealthier enemy.

He was speaking at an exhibition on Saturday showcasing Ukrainian-made unmanned vehicles for land, sea and air, electronic warfare systems and armoured vehicles.

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Ninety-nine percent of drones used by the Ukrainian military are produced domestically, Sukharevskyi said.

“It’s no secret that our resource limitations in artillery are compensated by drones, such as FPVs (first-person view) and (bomber) drop drones,” he told reporters, referencing an imbalance of artillery firepower between Ukraine and Russia which analysts put at six to one in Russia’s favour.

As the Ukrainian military is outgunned and outmanned on the battlefield, Moscow’s forces have been increasing pressure along the entire frontline and making gradual gains.

The increased use of drones by both sides has been shifting the conflict away from the battlefield to strikes on each other’s military, energy and transport infrastructure.

Ukrainian Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), used to hit targets inside Russia in recent months, can now hit targets more than 1,200 km (750 miles) away, Sukharevskyi said.

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Tesla will lay off more than 10% of its workforce.

Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukraine’s Minister of Strategic Industries, said Ukrainian weapons manufacturers had fuelled both military and economic progress in the country.

Ukraine’s booming military-industrial complex grew GDP by 1.5% in 2023, a significant chunk of the total GDP growth last year of around 5%.
Kamyshin said he was confident that figure would double to 3% of GDP growth this year. But he warned Ukraine’s government could not afford to buy up all its domestic weapons production.

Ukraine was in discussions with international allies about the purchase of weapons for Ukraine from Ukrainian makers to cover the financial shortfall, he said.

“I am convinced that we will start purchases from Ukrainian manufacturers with foreign funds in the new future,” he said. 

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Aseefa Bhutto Zardari sworn in MNA

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari sworn in MNA

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Aseefa Bhutto Zardari sworn in MNA

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari was sworn in as a member of the National Assembly.

NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq administered the oath.

During the session, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari provided headphones to Aseefa Bhutto Zardari to reduce the noise disturbances as PTI MNAs raised slogans calling for the release of the PTI founder.

Following Aseefa Zardari’s swearing-in, PPP members also chanted slogans in support of the Bhutto family like ‘jiye Bhutto’. 

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British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

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British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Sunday that British military jets shot down drones launched by Iran in its attack on Israel and called for “calm heads to prevail” to avoid an escalation of the conflict.

“I can confirm that our planes did shoot down a number of Iranian attack drones,” Sunak told broadcasters.

“If this attack had been successful, the fallout for regional stability would be hard to overstate. We stand by the security of Israel and the wider region, which is of course important for our security here at home, too. What we now need is for calm heads to prevail.”

Sunak was due to join discussions between Group of Seven leaders later on Sunday.

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“It’s important that we coordinate with allies and we’ll be discussing next steps at that moment,” he said

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