In a political context where the Yingluck Shinawatra government is increasingly seen as having sold out red shirts, Red Siam leader Surachai Danwattananusorn has been given another 2.5 years in jail on lese majeste charges. This brings his total sentence to 10 years.
Surachai’s multiple cases are related to speeches he made in 2008 and 2011. In October 2010, the Abhisit Vejjajiva government decided to press ahead with lese majeste charges against the anti-coup activist and Red Siam leader.
Red Siam had on-again, off-again relationship with the mainstream red shirts until 2010, when Surachai’s small group detached itself from the main red shirt demonstrations in March-May 2010.
Surachai was arrested in the early morning hours of 22 February 2011 in Nonthaburi and taken to police cells to be charged. He has been in jail since then.
On 28 February 2012, incarcerated but unbowed, and almost a year after his arrest and jailing, 71 year-old Surachai was sentenced to 15 years in jail for speeches made in late 2010. This was halved for his guilty plea.
As is common in lese majeste cases, the court was reportedly exceptionally biased in sentencing, mentioning events from decades in the past that are highly disputed, and related to a previous case where Surachai was jailed for several years before being pardoned. This was unsurprisingly as the judges in the case led by the notorious Chanathip Muanpawong who, late in 2011, convicted Ampol Tangnopakul to 20 years and Darunee Charnchoensilpakul to 15 years on lese majeste charges.
Now, Thailand’s Criminal Court sentenced Surachai to another two years and six months incarceration after being found guilty on further lese majeste charges, apparently related to an address to a red-shirt rally at Samakkhitham Temple in Bangkok on 5 and 6 February 2011.
He has now been sentenced to a total jail term to 10 years. This is effectively a sentence for him to die in prison as Surachai is now almost 70 years of age (different reports have him aged 68 or 70).
MCOT News reports that the “court handed him down another five years jail but the sentence was commuted to two and a half years due to his confession in similar case.”
In the “similar case,” Surachai had pleaded guilty to three counts of lese majeste involving speeches at rallies in Chiang Mai, Udon Thani and Bangkok. He did not plead guilty on all cases against him, and the “court issued its verdict without any suspensions as they were serious offences with severe punishment and he had repeatedly committed the same act.”