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Thai woman jailed for five years for insulting royals

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Anti-government protesters hold portraits of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit during a demonstration in Bangkok, on August 18, 2013 (AFP/File)

A Thai court on Wednesday sentenced a woman to five years in jail for breaching the kingdom's strict royal defamation laws in the the second such conviction in days.

Under controversial lese majeste rules, anyone convicted of insulting the Thai king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count.

Nopawan Tangudomsuk was found guilty of lese majeste and breaking computer crime laws with comments posted on a popular website in 2008, an official from Bangkok's court of appeal told AFP, without giving further details.

She was initially acquitted in a 2011 trial when prosecutors failed to prove she was behind the posting on the Prachatai site -- whose editor has been convicted in a separate case of failing to remove a comment critical of the monarchy.

"The appeal court decided to reverse the ruling" in Nopawan's case, a court official said, without giving details, but adding she was "found guilty of violating article 112" -- the kingdom's royal defamation law.

The ruling comes a day after the founder of the royalist "Yellow Shirts" was sentenced to two years in prison by the same appeal court under lese majeste laws.

Sondhi Limthongkul, one of Thailand's most controversial political figures, was convicted after prosecutors appealed an earlier acquittal over remarks quoting a speech by a political rival in 2008.

The "Red Shirt" activist whom Sondhi quoted was jailed for 15 years in 2011 for comments made during political rallies.

The royal family is a highly sensitive topic in politically turbulent Thailand, where King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 85, is revered but has been in ill-health for several years.

The kingdom has come under fire from rights groups and media freedom campaigners who say its defamation laws have been heavily politicised and pose a threat to freedom of speech.

Critics say many of those charged over recent years are linked to the Red Shirts, who are loyal to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Two months of mass street protests by the Reds against the previous government in early 2010 triggered the kingdom's worst civil violence in decades, with 90 people killed, mostly in a bloody military crackdown.

In June, a leading world press body warned that royal defamation laws were creating a "climate of fear" and being misused to wrongly imprison journalists.