Further updated: Thammasat student gets summons on new lese majeste charge

3 01 2012

At New Mandala, Somsak Jeamteerasakul comments on what he says is a new lese majeste charge. PPT reproduces it in full:

New LM case: a first year student at Thammasat charged

I regret to inform all NM readers of the second of three new LM cases I mention above (an earlier post in the same thread).

The first case, that of ajarn Suraphot Thawisak, had already been reported.

The accused in this case is Miss Natthakarn Sakuldarachat (her name at the time of the incident she is being charged with, she has since changed her name and surname to avoid harassment). At this moment she is a first year student in the Faculty of Social Welfare, Thammasat University.

During March-April 2010, at the height of the rallies and crackdown in Bangkok, Natthakarn or “Kan Thoob” the nickname she used online then, under which she is more widely known, had just finished her high school course, and had already passed the written exam to the Silpakorn University.

She posted some comments on her Facebook. Some online royalists saw them, quickly accusing her of LM, and widely attacking her on the internet and in “Yellow” media outlets.

These fierce attacks were such that the Dean of the Silapakorn Faculty (a known royalist) where Natthakarn “Kan Thoob” already passed the written exam, decided to reject her as new student, claiming she was not qualified because of her lack of loyalty to the monarchy.

A few weeks afterward, Natthakarn earned the right to take a oral exam at Kasetsart University. But the royalists hounded her, threatened to stage a protest at the university the day she was scheduled to appear for an oral exam. So Natthakarn decided to not show up and forfeited her right to study there.

Because of this, between mid-2010 and mid-2011, Natthakarn stayed at home, losing a whole year of study.

In mid 2011, i.e. at the start of this academic year, she passed the exam into the Faculty of Social Welfare, Thammasat University; although the administration knew of her case (Dr.Somkid, the university rector recently gave an interview about her case), she was more fortunate that here at Thammasat, they were more tolerant of differing opinion and accepted her without any incident. She already finished her first term as student … and is about to start the second term, postponed because of the flood until the middle of this month.

However, some royalists were not satisfied with just ruining her study for a year; unknown to Natthakarn, some of them apparently lodged LM complain about her case with the police.

At the end of last October, an LM charged and a summon had been issued to Natthakarn by the Bang Khen Police precinct. But because of the flood (the police precinct itself was flooded, and Natthakarn herself was back in her home province of Ratchaburi), the date she was summoned to appear was re-scheduled twice, finally being set at 10 am., Wednesday 11 January.

During the past two months (from the time Natthakarn received her summon), I together with some academic friends have tried to made informal contact with people in the authorities, urging them to reconsider Natthakarn’s case. After all, there is really little merit in the charge and still less any benefits to social and political order, but to no avail. So, Natthakarn is now officially the latest victim in this LM madness.

Update 1: At Prachatai, a commentator has pointed to  a report on this case in a Freedom House report:

In addition to legal repercussions, internet users who post controversial content can face societal harassment, termed “online witch hunts” by local observers. In a case reported in May 2010, an 18-year-old high school graduate became the subject of an online hate campaign over her alleged insult of the monarchy. The woman claimed that she was refused a place at Silpakorn University because of her Facebook postings, and expressed fears of a physical attack after her name and address were posted on public websites. She said that she faced hostility in her neighborhood as well as threatening leaflets and phone calls, and that police had refused to accept her complaint. [53] A network of users calling themselves the “Social Sanction” group has actively sought out individuals who have expressed views deemed to be disrespectful of the monarchy and launched online campaigns to vilify them. In some cases, these campaigns have sparked official investigations of the targeted individual.[54]

Notes:

[53]  Pravit Rojanaphruk, “18-Year-Old’s Facebook Posting Spurs ‘Hate Campaign,’” Nation, May 28, 2010, available on Prachatai at http://prachatai3.info/english/node/1864. One of the pages condemning the young woman can be found at http://www.khanpak.com/front-variety/variety-view.php?id=500

[54] Sawatree Suksri, Siriphon Kusonsinwut, and Orapin Yingyongpathana, Situational Report on Control and Censorship of Online Media, Through the Use of Laws and the Imposition of Thai State Policies (Bangkok: iLaw Project, 2010), http://www.boell-southeastasia.org/downloads/ilaw_report_EN.pdf, p. 14.

Update 2: Somsak Jeamteerasakul has added more details, again at New Mandala. We reproduce it below, with a bit of editing:

Natthakarn has decided to ask the police for postponement of her reporting for LM charge, from next Wednesday to sometime next month. The police agreed. The new date is tentatively set at 11 February.

The reason for the request is that she has upcoming final exams for last semester (held up from October because of flood) within a few days after next Wednesday. At first she thought she could manage the preparation for both the exam and the reporting to police within few days of one another, but apparently the latter interfered too much with her time and concentration for the exam preparation.

I’d like to emphasize that the LM charge against Natthakarn “Kan Thoob” stills stands, the summon still stands, only the date of her reporting to police has been rescheduled.

Somsak goes on to provide further details:

I’d like also to give some further info about Natthakarn, just checked with her. She was born in May 1992. This means that her posting on Facebook between March and April 2010, for which she is being charged, happened when she was not quite 18 years old. I am not quite sure about the law on this, but as I understand it, should the case come to court, she could be tried as a minor, presumably even in juvenile court (?).

In any case, this fact (and the fact that even now she has not yet reached 20 years), makes the charge all the more depressing. While nobody of any age (or political persuasions – not even Sondhi Lim), should be charged with LM, in the case like Natthakarn’s, the police should have exercised good sense and should not have laid a formal charge against her. At most they should have contacted her, perhaps with her parents and her university supervisors, to warn her of potentials danger of posting ambiguous messages online. They should have let her get on with her life and study.

In addition, at New Mandala, Andrew Spooner points out that he wrote about this case a few months ago. His post then began:

Back in 2010, as the Thai people were busy counting the corpses resulting from former-PM Abhisit’s Bangkok massacre, a young 17-year-old girl left a message on her public Facebook page. The message was a rebuke to Thailand’s royalty that was so mild it didn’t even attract a charge under Thailand’s draconian lese majeste. But what it did attract was something far more sinister.

It might have been sinister then. It is far worse now. Lese majeste madness indeed.

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4 responses

8 01 2012
More on latest lese majeste witch hunt « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] couple of days ago PPT posted on the latest summons in the ongoing repression associated with lese majeste. The young woman […]

15 01 2012
Kan-thoop, A Witch or A Kid? – Matichon Interview | Thai Woman Talks – Language, Politics & Love

[…] case by Voranai Vanijaka in the Bangkok Post; Bangkok Pundit on Asian Correspondent; and Political Prisoners in Thailand.) Advertisement LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

23 01 2012
23 01 2012
Interview with accused Thammasat student-Matichon « FACT – Freedom Against Censorship Thailand

[…] (See more detailed background details and commentaries about Kan-thoop’s case by Voranai Vanijaka in the Bangkok Post; Bangkok Pundit on Asian Correspondent; and Political Prisoners in Thailand.) […]




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