If anyone needed further proof that Thailand’s lese majeste law and its closely related Computer Crimes Act were amongst the most extreme and repressive sets of laws it comes today with the sentencing of Ampol Tangnopakul.
Ampol is 61 years and ill and yet was given 20 years on charges of sending text messages. There remains real doubt that Ampol even had the skills to send such messages. Ampol denied the charges, saying he was unfamiliar with the text message function on mobile phones and did not know the recipient of the message. But never mind, the royalist courts have locked him up, probably until he dies.
He was reported arrested by Crime Suppression Division police on 3 August 2010 for sending SMS messages considered offensive to the monarchy to several important people, including a secretary to then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. He was charged under the draconian laws that protect the monarchy from any comment that others may deem as critical. His sentence came without Ampol even being in court as he sat in the flooded Bangkok Remand Prison.
Ampol’s cruel sentence, some say, may allow a quick pardon on the king’s birthday. If there was some compassion for this old and poor man, perhaps that is the best case to be made for such a spiteful sentence. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for Lung Ampol.
One aspect of the case that deserves attention is the Central Bureau of Investigation claim that the messages were “inappropriate and considered insulting to the monarchy and have upset the recipients…”. The delicate soul who was offended by messages, said to be about the queen, was a personal secretary to Abhisit. We can only assume Abhisit also felt “upset.” In fact, the Democrat Party leader and his party were using lese majeste to repress political opponents.
Nothing has changed much since then. As Andrew Spooner points out, the Democrat Party is hard at work attempting to ensure that even more people are put in jail for lese majeste. Their efforts have now become quite maniacal.
Of course the increased pressure on the government to throw people in political prisons is a part of a broad and apparently coordinated strategy to link with the People’s Alliance for Democracy to show the government is disloyal to the throne. To any normal person, the idea of using Jurassic-era and anti-democratic laws would seem ridiculous, but not to this anti-democratic Democrat Party.
But readers will be pleased to know that the terrible sentence has even motivated the normally lese majeste somnolent Benjamin Zawacki at Amnesty International, who is said to have “condemned” the verdict, “accusing the government of suppressing freedom of expression.” He claimed that the current law “form and usage [of the law] place the country in contravention of its international legal obligations.” Zawacki added that Ampol “is a political prisoner.”
Of course, as PPT has pointed out for several years, every lese majeste victim is a political prisoner. Sitting around waiting until each one is sentenced before making a statement, as Zawacki appears to do, means that human rights organizations are complicit in the torture-like treatment that lese majeste victims are subjected to.
While Ampol’s case has had little attention to date, the over-the-top sentence has already gained considerable media attention in just a few hours. Here are some of the stories:
BANGKOK — A Thai criminal court sentenced a 61-year-old man to 20 years in prison Wednesday for sending text messages deemed offensive to the country’s queen. The court found Amphon Tangnoppaku guilty on four counts under lese majeste and computer …
AP Thailand’s criminal court has sentenced a 61-year-old man to 20 years in prison for sending text messages deemed insulting to the country’s queen. The court found Amphon Tangnoppaku guilty Wednesday of violating the kingdom’s lese majeste and …
A man who sent text messages deemed insulting to Thailand’s monarchy has been jailed for 20 years. Ampon Tangnoppakul, 61, was convicted of sending four messages last year to an official working for then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. …
Voice of America (blog)
A court in Thailand has sentenced a man to 20 years in prison for sending text messages that authorities say were “insulting” to the country’s royal family. Bangkok’s Criminal Court on Wednesday found 61-year-old Ampon Tangnoppakul guilty of sending …
Agenzia Giornalistica Italia
(AGI) Bangkok – A man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for texting insults against the monarchy Thailand. Ampon Tangnoppakuln was found guilty of lese-majesty. In May 2010 he texted the private secretary of then-prime minister, …
BANGKOK — A Thai court on Wednesday sentenced a man to 20 years in prison for sending text messages deemed insulting to the monarchy, his lawyer said, under the kingdom’s strict lese-majeste laws. Ampon Tangnoppakul, 61, was found guilty of four counts …
A THAI court has sentenced a man to 20 years in prison for sending text messages deemed insulting to the monarchy, …