2 indicted for defaming Thailand's monarchy in a stage performance at a university

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BANGKOK — Prosecutors in Thailand have charged two people with defaming the country's monarchy in a stage performance at a university last year, moving on a complaint filed by a group of royalists, a lawyer said Tuesday.

The two — a 23-year-old male university student and a 26-year-old woman — were charged Friday with lese majeste, which mandates a prison term of up to 15 years for anyone insulting Thailand's monarchy, said Pawinee Chumsri, a human rights lawyer who is representing the pair.

The two were involved in a play at Bangkok's Thammasat University last October called "The Wolf Bride," which told the story of a fictional monarch. They have been in jail since their arrest in August, with their bail requests repeatedly turned down by a Bangkok court, Pawinee said.

"We are seeking to bail them for the fifth time already. The court had said in the past that the case has a severe penalty and the alleged crime was done in front of a large number of people," Pawinee said.

In Thailand, anyone can file a lese majeste complaint with police, and the charge has frequently been used as a weapon to harass political enemies. In this case, a group calling itself the Royal Monarch Alert Protection Network filed the complaint.

The indictment comes during a period of heightened nationalism under a military-installed government that took power in a coup in May. The new regime has said that protecting the monarchy is a priority, and has allocated a large budget to the military and ministries for the task.

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