Thai man jailed for selling royal documentary: lawyer

BANGKOK - A Thai man was sentenced to more than three years in prison on Thursday for selling copies of a controversial Australian documentary about Thailand's royal family, his lawyer said.

The imprisonment of Eakachai Hongkangwan, 37, is the latest in a series of tough sentences handed down by the kingdom's courts for royal defamation, to the dismay of human rights campaigners.

"The court found him guilty of lese majeste and sentenced him to five years, but due to his useful testimony, the sentence was reduced to three years and four months," lawyer Anon Numpa said afterwards, adding his client would appeal.

Eakachai was also fined 64,000 baht (S$2,792) for selling CDs without a licence.

The documentary was broadcast by the state-funded Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) in 2010 in the midst of a military crackdown on anti-government "Red Shirt" demonstrations in Bangkok.

Thailand warned at the time that the broadcast could affect ties with Australia.

The royal family is an extremely sensitive subject in politically turbulent Thailand. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 85, is revered by many Thais but has been in hospital since September 2009.

Rights groups have criticised the kingdom's royal insult laws as an attack on freedom of expression.

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