A Thai man in his 60s who became known as “Uncle SMS” after he was convicted of defaming Thailand’s royal family in mobile phone text messages has died while serving his 20-year prison term, his lawyer said Tuesday.
The case of Amphon Tangnoppakul, a grandfather who had suffered from mouth cancer, drew attention to Thailand’s severe lese majeste laws last November when he received one of the heaviest-ever sentences for someone accused of insulting the monarchy.
Amphon’s cause of death was not immediately known, but he had complained of stomach pains on Friday and was transferred to a correctional department prison, his lawyer Anon Numpa said.
It was not immediately clear when he died, but Amphon’s wife learned the news early Tuesday during a visit to the Bangkok prison where he was being held, Anon said.
Amphon was arrested in August 2010 and accused of sending four text messages to a government official that were deemed offensive to the queen. He denied sending them, however, and said he didn’t even know how to use the SMS function on his telephone to send texts.
He wept during his court proceedings, saying, “I love the King.”
The sentence was believed to be the heaviest ever received in a lese majeste case because of additional penalties issued under a related law, the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.
Before his arrest, Amphon had lived with his wife, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren in a rented room in Samut Prakan province, on the outskirts of Bangkok. He was retired and suffered from cancer of the mouth.