January 19 Bangkok, Thailand: Anchan Preelert, a one-time civil servant, was sentenced to 43 years in prison for violating Thailand’s infamously strict lèse-majesté law, which criminalizes defaming senior members of the royal family, according to Reuters. The 65 year-old was originally sentenced to 87 years in prison after being convicted of 29 violations of the law, but had her sentence halved for pleading guilty of sharing audio clips that were deemed critical of the royal family. “Today’s court verdict is shocking and sends a spine-chilling signal that not only criticisms of the monarchy won’t be tolerated, but they will also be severely punished,” said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for the Human Rights Watch, according to AP News.“…Thai authorities are using lèse-majesté prosecution as their last resort measure in response to the youth-led democracy uprising that seeks to curb the king’s powers and keep him within the bound of constitutional rule.” The verdict is the longest sentence ever given for violations of the law—commonly referred to as Section 112.
January 21 Baghdad, Iraq: At least 32 people were killed in the Iraqi capital when two suicide bombings—the first massive bombing in years—occurred in a crowded market, according to AP News. It was the first twin bombing in three years since 27 people were killed in the same market in Jan. 2018. On the morning of Jan. 22, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Reuters. “The will to live among our people as they face terrorism in the scene of the heinous crime at Bab al-Sharqi was a message of defiance and unparalleled courage.” wrote Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Khadhimi in a tweet.
January 21 Tegucigalpa, Honduras: Honduran lawmakers voted to amend the constitution in an effort to make it more difficult to overturn bans on abortions and same-sex marriages, according to Reuters. Of the 123 member legislature, 88 lawmakers voted in favor of requiring a two-thirds supermajority to change constitutional articles that give fetuses the same legal status as a person and that civil marriages can only be between a man and a woman.“Honduras’ draconian legislation already bans abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, when the person’s life and the health are in danger, and when the fetus will not survive outside the womb,” said Ximena Casas, Americas women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This decree will make it virtually impossible to carry out the recommendations from multiple international human rights bodies to end this violation of reproductive rights.” Honduras has some of the strictest abortion laws in the world and is the only Latin American country that even bans the use of emergency contraceptives in all cases.
January 22 Goma, DR Congo: At least 300 of the 500 members of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s lower house of Parliament signed a motion of no confidence toward Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, according to Al Jazeera. The motion gave Ilunkamba 48 hours to resign or face a vote of no confidence. “The majority of the national assembly is in favour of the departure of the prime minister,” said lawmaker Chérubin Okende, one of the motion’s authors. The move would be a major victory for President Felix Tshisekedi, whose political power would have the opportunity to gain political power. If his allies gain parliamentary majority, Tshisekedi would be able to nominate a cabinet of his choosing and nominate a new head of the electoral commission and central bank board, according to Reuters.