Newly-crowned Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn will pardon around 150,000 prisoners, including those who were imprisoned for insulting the royals, in what is said to be his first act of "mercy" following his father's demise.

The Royal Gazette statement issued on Saturday (10 December) read, "This is the first opportunity since his majesty's ascension to show his mercy." It added that around 150,000 prisoners would be eligible for release or to have prison sentences slashed.

Kobkiat Kasivivat, director general at the Department of Corrections told told Reuters that inmates jailed for insulting the royals and drug offences will be eligible for the pardon. He elaborated, "Prisoners convicted of 112 and prisoners convicted of drug offences will be included for consideration for release or commuting of sentence."

It is not clear how many inmates would benefit from the pardon as decisions have to be made by prisons depending on various factors such as the age of the inmate, the amount of sentence that has been served and individual behaviour.

Moreover, the Thai government has not released the number of those who are in prison for insulting royals, but more than 80 people have been reportedly prosecuted since mid-2014 under the law, figures from a legal monitoring group indicate.

"The inmates will be looked at on a case by case basis at each individual corrections facility," Chanchao Chaiyanukit, permanent secretary at the ministry of justice said. Authorities also said that those who were convicted of rape and murder will not be eligible for pardon or to have their sentences slashed.

According to reports, the prison population in Thailand increased rapidly due to its strict drug laws.

King Maha
The prison population in Thailand increased rapidly due to the country's strict drug laws Chaiwat Subprasom/ Reuters