Suwicha Thakor was arrested on 14 January 2009 on suspicion of posting comments on the Internet that insulted the monarchy. He is an engineer, with 3 children, and was arrested in Nakorn Phanom and transported to Bangkok. He is accused of having posted insults to the king and his aides. His arrest coincided with a speech by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who claimed to support freedoms but claimed that the monarchy had to be protected while adding that the lèse majesté law should not be abused.
Bloomberg reported in mid-March 2009 that Suwicha had been twice refused bail but remained incarcerated and defiant. By the end of March, the Thai Netizen Network (27 March 2009: “First verdict on CCA-LM is scheduled for the accused Internet user on April 3, 2009″) reported Suwicha, detained at Klong Prem prison, was “prosecuted” on 26 March 2009. The report states that, “Since the accused has pleaded guilty therefore no trial will be taken. The verdict is scheduled on April 3, 2009 at 9 am. onwards at the Criminal Court, Ratchadapisek Road.” It seems that he has been prosecuted under the Computer Crime Act. It seems that Suwicha will soon be sentenced. Pleading guilty sometimes results in bail being granted and sentences being halved.
Suwicha convicted: The Nation (3 April 2009) reported that Suwicha has been convicted and sentenced to a long jail term: “The Criminal Court Friday sentenced a man to ten year imprisonment for posting a picture deemed insulting the monarchy on a website. Initially, Suwicha Thakho was sentenced to be jailed for 20 years but the court commuted the jail term by half after he pleaded guilty. He was charged with violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code and violating the computer crime act.”
This was a remarkably heavy penalty.
Suwicha’s family received support from the Doha Center. In providing the support, the Center stated: “This sentence is a violation of freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Thailand signed in October 1996. We call for Thakor’s immediate release, again ask Thailand to drop all proceedings for insulting the monarchy and demand the repeal of the law on lèse-majesté, which is from another age and allows random sentencing. The king is revered by most Thais, but that should not be allowed to affect freedom and democracy.”
On 28 April 2009, Reporters Without Borders wrote to Thailand’s king asking him to pardon Suwicha .Talking from prison, Suwicha told RWB: “I posted a video of the king on the Internet…. The police should have told me what I was doing was wrong. It is not right to be sentenced to 10 years in prison for this. I am not a problem for the country or its security. I am in prison for nothing.”
When the prosecution decided to appeal the sentence, seeking a heavier penalty, this meant that Suwicha’s family could not seek a royal pardon.
After a month, in early June 2009, the public prosecutor decided not to appeal Suwicha’s sentence meaning he could begin the process of requesting a royal pardon. Nothing has been heard of the pardon since then.
Suwicha pardoned: Suwicha was pardoned in June 2010. Somsak Jeamteerasakul (Jun 30, 2010 at 2:57 am) at New Madala had this post:
Suwicha was released yesterday by royal pardon. Today he went to Sirirat Hospital to pay respect to HM and gave an interview, thanking HM for showing mercy and urging all Thai to be grateful to what HM has done to the country. Suwicha also called on all those who ‘did wrong’ [on LM issue], either ‘for lack of knowledge/understanding’ [รู้เท่าไม่ถึงการณ์] to change their behaviors.
I’ve made a video clip of news report from Channel 5 military TV (29 June, 20.00). NM readers can download it here: http://www.mediafire.com/?zmjgmhkynnm
The clip contains the whole report of people going to Sirirat to pay respect to HM for today It’s a regular daily segment on all TV channels nowsaday (part of the ‘Royal Family News’ segment), but only Channel 5 seems to include news of Suwicha’s being there. Suwicha appears at the end of the clip beginning around minute 1.20.
In July 2010, Suwicha entered the monkhood.
News and commentary on Suwicha’s case:
Prachatai, 14 July 2010: “Suwicha Thakor ordained”
Reporters Without Borders, 4 December 2009: “King asked to pardon Internet users prosecuted on lese majeste or national security charges”
The Star, 24 August 2009: “Risking freedom for expression”.
Prachatai, 2 June 2009, “Update on Suwicha and Chiranuch cases”
Thai Netizen Network, 26 May 2009, “On the Cases Related to Computer-Related Crime Act” and in ไทย, เครือข่ายพลเมืองเน็ต, 26 พ.ค. 2553, “เรื่อง การดำเนินคดี พ.ร.บ. คอมพิวเตอร์ฯ ต่อพลเมืองเน็ต”
Prachatai, 15 May 2009, “Update on Suwicha: Prosecutor extends period for filing appeal, hampering attempt to seek royal pardon” and in ไทย, “อัยการขอเลื่อนเวลาอุทธรณ์ คดี ‘สุวิชา ท่าค้อ’ ทนายชี้คดียืด ทำให้ขอพระราชทานอภัยโทษไม่ได้”
Prachatai, 13 May 2009, “Suwicha Thakor’s life after sentencing”
ประชาไท, 12 พฤษภาคม 2553, “รายงานพิเศษ: สุวิชา ท่าค้อ ชีวิตหลังคำตัดสิน”
Reporters Without Borders, 29 April 2009: “Reporters Without Borders and 31 other organisations urge Thai government to amend lese majeste law”
Prachatai, 22 April 2009: “Doha Centre helps jailed Internet user’s family”
Reuters report on Suwicha’s conviction here; Earth Times report here; Irrawaddy here; BBC here. Ji Ungpakorn also has posted a commentary on this case and more. ภาษาไทย ดู ประชาไท: “ศาลตัดสินจำคุก 10 ปี “สุวิชา ท่าค้อ” ตามมาตรา 112″
Thai Netizen Network, 27 March 2009: “First verdict on CCA-LM is scheduled for the accused Internet user on April 3, 2009″
Bloomberg.com 12 March 2009: “Thai bloggers face jail without bail for discussing monarchy” has written about Suwicha Thakor’s case and the rise in censorship.
National News Bureau of Thailand, 17 January 2009: “Lèse majesté suspect detained, bail prohibited”
International Herald Tribune, 15 January 2009: “Thai man arrested for Internet comments on king”
Reporters Without Borders, 14 January 2009: “Another Internet user arrested for lese majeste as Internet regulation dialogue gets under way”