Another lese majeste case sent to the UN

4 09 2011

PPT has received documentation that the Freedom of Expression Documentation Center of iLaw has submitted the lese majeste case of Ampol Tangnopakul to the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. This follows the submission of the case involving Somyos Prueksakasemsuk.

This case has received little media attention, so we reproduce in full the case made to the Working Group:

Arrest and Detention of Mr. Ampon Tangnoppakul (also known as Uncle SMS) Thailand

1. Allegation regarding a person or persons:

On 3 August 2010, Mr. Ampon Tangnoppakul, a 61-year old man, was arrested under Section 14 (2) and 14 (3) of the Computer Crime Act and section 112 of the Criminal Code (also known as lese majeste charge).

He was alleged to send short message service (SMS) to the phone of Mr Somkiat Klongwattanasuk, private secretary Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva, a former Prime Minister of Thailand. The message is alleged by the authorities to be vulgar and is alleged to be an insult to honor of the monarchy and is a defamation to H.M. Queen Sirikit.

He is facing the maximum of 20 years imprisonment if he is found guilty.

Mr. Ampon denied all accusation since his arrest. He said that he does not know how to send SMS and that the phone number that was sent to the Mr Somkiat Kongwattanasuk is also not his. The police officers believed that the sender had already thrown the phone simcard away. They tracked down through International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number.

Mr Ampon used to work as a truck driver, but was not working because he is old and could not talk well from his operation since 2007. He had a cancer under his tongue. Prior to his arrest, he was living with his wife in a room which he rented for 1,200 baht (US$30) a month at Samrong area in Bangkok. He received a small sum of money from his children. He had to take care of 3-4 grandchildren.

In the complaint by the police, Mr Ampon is identified to belong to a hardcore faction of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), which is a left-leaning political mass movement in Thailand. The UDD is known locally as the Redshirt. Mr Ampon said that he had gone to the demonstration by the UDD when they were gathering near Rajadamnoen Avenue many times in the afternoon. He said that he also went to the protest of the pro-royalist and nationalist People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) many times as well, but he is not ally to any political group.

After his detention on 3 August 2010, he was detained in prison for 63 days. He was granted bail on 4 October 2010. He was officially charged by the public prosecutor on 18 January 2011 and was again detained on the date. The court refused to grant him bail, claiming that the fact on his case has severe effects on the feeling of the public and national security and that the case is currently being investigated. The court also fears for his escape. Therefore he has been arbitrarily detained without bail for 8 months.

2. Allegation regarding a medium of communication:

According to the police, they alleged that Mr Ampon used prepaid simcard and the mobile phone which he received from his son-in-law 2-3 months prior to his arrest.

In Thailand, it is not necessary to register your private information prior to the use of the simcard. And general public does not have to register your ownership of the electronic and communication devices.

3. Information regarding the alleged perpetrators:

Mr Ampon was arrested on 3 August 2010. Mr Ampon denied all accusation. He said he did not know how to send SMS messages on the phone and had never send one before because he did not know how to. He only knew how to make phone call from the cellphone. He said that the phone number that was used to send out the SMS messages was not his. The official located that IMEI number is the same. The phone that Mr Ampon used belonged to his son-in-law which he had been using it for 2-3 months prior that.

He was not granted bail for 63 days. The lawyer submitted a request for bail for the second time on on 29 September 2010. On 4 October 2010, the court granted bail after his relatives used their land title as a guarantee. The appeal court gave an order allowing bail giving the reason that the guarantee was trustworthy enough and it gave assurance that the defendant would not run away.

On 18 January 2011, the public prosecutor made the decision to formally charge Mr Ampon as the defendant on the case that he is guilty under Section 14 (2) and (3) of the Computer Crime Act and section 112 of the Criminal Code.

After the formal charge, the lawyer submitted the request for bail using land title as the guarantee. Part of the excerpt from the lawyer said that “the defendant does not have any intention to escape since he is a normal aged man who lives with his wife, a daughter-in-law, and three grandsons in a rented room in Samutprakarn province. The defendant is not working since he is very old. The defendant earns the living through the money that his son is sending to him monthly for 3,000 Thai Baht (US$100) a month and receives health care from national healthcare insurance. Prior to this, Mr. Ampon still is infected with oral cancer. He has to see a specialist doctor at Rajavethi hospital continuously since 2007. Prior to the arrest, the defendant has to send of his grandchild to school. If he needs to leave his home, he has to come back. When he was arrested, he was 60 year-old. He was arrested by 15 police officers with a group of media observing. The defendant and people in his family still is very fearful. He has no intention or aim to escape or fight during the arrest. When he was granted bail in the investigation stage, he also came to report to the court continuously. When the public-prosecutor filed the formal charge on him, he prepared all the document and guarantee in a timely manner so that it would fit with the schedule of the public prosecutor without delaying it. Based upon the above information, this clearly shows that Mr Ampon never has any intention or ability that would make the Criminal Court believe that he would escape.”

The request by the defendant lawyer also says that the detention of the defendant during the investigation will have direct effect on the rights, liberty in lives and well-being of the defendant, and that it would not be in anyway beneficial to the trial process. This is since Mr. Ampon has a health problem which is serious to his health and that he has not been convicted as guilty. Therefore, he should be given the right to bail according to Section 39 (2), 39 (3), and Section 40 (7) under the 2007 Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand.

The court made the decision denying his right to bail by giving the reason that “under the severity of the charge and the case which is an act against HM the King, HM the Queen, and the Heir-Apparent, this is considered a severe issue and has effect on the Thai public. If the defendant is granted temporary bail, it is believed that he would escape. Therefore the court will not allow him to be bail.

The request is overruled. This decision shall be made into formal letter and send to the defendant and the person making this request immediately”.

4. Information related to State actions:

Mr Somkiat Klongwattanasuk, Deputy secretary General of the Prime Minister of Political Affairs and private secretary of Mr Abhisit Vejjajiva, former Prime Minister, filed a complaint against Mr Ampon Tangnoppakul to the Technological Crime Division after he received four SMS messages
from cellphone number 081 3493614 on 9, 11, and 22 May 2010. The content of the messages are alleged to be an insult to the honor of the monarchy with vulgar words and defame H.M. Queen Sirikit.

Mr Somkiat was a private secretary of former PM Abhisit Vejajiva. On 18 January 2011, he was appointed to serve as the Deputy Secretary General of the Prime Minister on Political Affairs by the decision of the Cabinet.

After the complaint, the Technological Crime Division requested for an arrest warrant with the Rachada Criminal Court. The arrest warrant no. 1659/2553 dated 29 June 2010 was granted. The arrest warrant stated the possible violation under Section 112 of the Criminal Code which has the penalty per each count of 3 – 15 years imprisonment.

On 3 August 2010, at 7am, fifteen police officers under the leadership of Police Lieutenant General Tangai Pradsatrue, Police Colonel Supisarn Pakdinaruenat, Police Colonel Pornsak Surasee, Police Lieutenant Colonel Theeradej Thamsutee, and Police Lieutenant Colonel Suthiwej Boonyaratklin arrested Mr Apon Tangnoppakul at his home which is located at 52 Moo 1, Tambon Klongsuan, Bangbor District, Samutprakarn Province. Mr. Ampon was arrested at an unnamed room between Soi Wat Dan Samrong 17/1 and Soi Wat Dan Somrong 19, Moo 4, Tambon Samrongnua, Muang District, Samutprakarn Province. Mr Ampon was found with two Motorola cellphone and a Telewiz cellphone in his closet.

Police Lieutenant General Ta-ngai said through Matichon newspaper that the accused denied that he did not send the message, but accepted that the phone belonged to his but had not used it for a long time since the accused did not have a full time job with permanent location. Police Lieutenant General Ta-ngai did not believe that Mr Ampon would know the number of the country’s VIP person and would send such message. He believed that there was someone supporting or was behind this. He believed that Mr Apon is a hardcore member of the UDD in Samutprakarn province which is on the black list of the Internal Security Operation Command.

Mr. Ampon is still detained in jail. During his detention, the lawyer has made numerous request for bail but was not allowed by the court.

The court has a schedule for witness hearing for public-prosecutor on 23, 27, 28 September 2011 and for the defendant lawyer on 29 and 30 September 2011. Thai court usually delivers a verdict one month after the last day of the trial. It is expected that the verdict will be delivered by 31 October 2011.

5. Information on the source of the communications:

Organisation : Freedom of Expression Documentation Center, iLaw
Address : 409 Pracharatbumpen 14 Rd., Huaykwang, Bangkok 10320
Phone number : +66 (0) 2276 3676
Email : ilaw@ilaw.or.th

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