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A Thai man was sentenced to nine years in prison on Wednesday for posting anti-monarchy messages on Facebook, his lawyer said.

"The Criminal Court sentenced him to nine years in prison, but reduced it to six years for providing useful testimony," said the defendant's lawyer Sasinan Thamnithinan.

Piya Jullakittiphan, 46, was convicted by the court of using an alias to post defamatory statements about King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Sasinan said her client denied the charges, saying that someone else had impersonated him to get him in trouble.

According to the lawyer, her client was still debating filing an appeal.

Thailand has some of the world's strictest lese-majesty laws, which prohibit any slighting of King Bhumibol and his heir apparent.

Critics say the country's lese-majesty legislation is often abused to advance political and personal agendas and vendettas.

Bhumibol is the world's longest-reigning monarch. He is revered in Thailand, where he is seen as a unifying figure.

 

Thailand's lese-majesty laws: A quick explanation

Thailand's lese-majesty laws have been described by critics as being among the world's strictest, carrying prison terms of between three and 15 years.

The legislation has been viewed as necessary by successive governments and conservative elements of society for whom the monarchy is highly revered and above political wrangling.

It places the monarchy beyond political, academic or personal criticism by anyone in the country.

“The vaguely worded lese-majesty law criminalizes the peaceful expression of opinions and violates the right to freedom of expression," said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director.

Critics also point to a speech that King Bhumibol Adulyadej made in 2005, in which he said he should not be above criticism.

The monarch's advice has been ignored as subsequent governments have continued to prosecute using the law.

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