Reports in the Bangkok Post have continued the account of the lese majeste trial of Surapak Puchaisaeng. PPT’s earlier posts are here and here. The earlier report in the Bangkok Post is of the third day in court, which concluded the hearing of prosecution witnesses.
The gist of the day’s proceedings seems to be an accusation rather than evidence, with a police colonel from the Technology Crime Suppression Division stating that Surapak “admitted after his arrest and during an initial probe that he was the owner of the email address and Facebook page” that were said to be involved with lese majeste content. Readers might recall that in earlier accounts of Surapak’s arrest that he was quoted: “I denied all knowledge, but they tried to force me to sign a confession. I went to telephone a lawyer, but they took the mobile phone from me.” He was denied access to a lawyer for some time.
The policeman, presumably one of those involved in denying Surapak he legal and constitutional rights, stated that it was only when “the defendant learned that he could be charged under Section 112, the so-called lese majeste law, he pleaded not guilty…”.
The Bangkok Post‘s account of the fourth and final day of the trial refers to defense witnesses, including Surapak, with the court to make its ruling on 31 October 2012.
Surapak’s own evidence appears in line with that noted above. He denied “an association with the email and Facebook page alleged by the police as being used to display messages deemed insulting to the monarchy.” He stated that he was denied a lawyer and that the policeman cited above, “Pisit Paoin, deputy commander from the Technology Crime Suppression Division, told him to write down the suspected email address and Facebook page on a piece of paper…”, and had him sign it. He “denied the document proved his authorship of the email and ownership of the Facebook page. He also denied all charges.” In addition, Surapak pointed to the “temporary files which the police entered as evidence proving an association between the email and Facebook page and his two computers were not credible.” Finally, he “pointed to a Microsoft report entered as evidence by the prosecutor which showed an attempted link to his computer through Wifi on Sept 7, five days after he was arrested.”
On this technical matter, Surapak was supported by a “defence witness, Kittipong Piyawanno, a lecturer at the Royal Thai Navy Academy’s Engineering Department, [who] argued that police evidence supposedly showing log files of the suspected Facebook page appeared incomplete and irregular.” He stated that “if a Facebook use is to appear in the cache file, it must be in the form of PHP, not HTML as shown in the evidence. He said the source post provided by the police looked like it was created manually.” He added that “the police evidence also showed that the computer was activated twice while it was not in the possession of the defendant.”
Kittipong concluded that as “the computer forensic police did not appear to follow the appropriate protocol in its handling of the exhibit computers, the resulting evidence is not credible…“.
The implication is that this is a police fit up.
While the accounts of the evidence are incomplete in the newspaper reporting, there certainly appears to be little substantial evidence in this case. Surapak may well be one of those in the tiny 4-5% who get off lese majeste and computer crimes charges, but the recent behavior of the courts suggest that acquittal is unlikely. We hope we are wrong. At the very least, Surapak should be bailed immediately.
Update: At The Nation, the story on this case has an informative headline: I’ve been framed: Lese majeste man. The story also has more from Kittipong: “The reliability [of the claimed evidence] is almost nil…”. Kittipong went on to say that “if an innocent person were sentenced under the lese majeste law or the Computer Crimes Act, not only would the person develop a negative impression about the monarchy, but the monarchy would be negatively affected as well.” And, to finish, he is said to have “criticised the activities of the so-called cyber-scouts and ultra-royalists, saying that going on a witch-hunt was not the right way of expressing love for the monarch.”