Updated: Somyos verdict on 23 January

19 12 2012

Many, including Somyos Prueksakasemsuk‘s lawyer, had thought that 19 December would see a verdict in his lese majeste case. In fact, though, with more than 100 people at the court, the verdict was delayed until 23 January 2013.

Those present “included the defendant’s wife and son, representatives from several European embassies, including Denmark and Germany, and the European Commission [and] … [i]nternational and local NGOs such as Freedom House, Human Rights Watch and Union for Civil Liberty…”.Somyos

What they got was “a lengthy explanation of the Constitution Court’s ruling that the Penal Code’s Section 112, known as the lese majeste law, is not contrary to the constitution.” Of course, the law is an affront to several provisions in the junta’s 2007 constitution, but royalist judges produce political rather than legal decisions. The Constitutional Court holds “that the principle of Section 112 of the Penal Code is in line with providing protection to the King, an institution and head of the state of Thailand.” It argues for the protection of the royalist state and ignores or does not rule on numerous other articles in the constitution that are meant to protect free speech and other liberties. Further, it makes its protection of the royalist state clear:

Commission of offences under Section 112 of the Penal Code shall affect the security of the state as the King is an institution the constitution recognises and protects, and is part of the democratic regime of government with the King as the head of state.

It rests this claim on the second paragraph of Section 45 of the constitution which states:

The restriction on liberty under paragraph one [A person shall enjoy the liberty to express his opinion, make speech, write, print, publicise, and make expression by other means] shall not be imposed except by virtue of the law specifically enacted for the purpose of maintaining the security of State, protecting the rights, liberties, dignity, reputation, family or privacy rights of other person[s], maintaining public order or good morals or preventing or halting the deterioration of the mind or health of the public.

Following all of this royalist political squirming, there was unusual dissension:

Attendants moved to calm the public gallery, which erupted noisily after the lengthy explanation, particularly when it was announced the judgement on Mr Somyos would not be delivered right away but delayed until Jan 23, 2013.

Somyos responded by observing that the “lese majeste law remained a problem affecting the whole justice system, and undermined  the integrity of the revered institution of the monarchy.” He then attacked the current government:

“What I feel sorry about is that the parliament and the Yingluck administration are somewhat cowardly. The people-initiated amendment under the banner of the Committee to Campaign for the Amendment of Section 112 is an important move and the way this effort was belittled and stopped is a loss to our society.

“It’s of immeasurable regret that social justice and protection of the institution of the monarchy [through the proposed amendment] cannot be achieved,” said Mr Somyos.

“It’s a pity that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra does not dare to take the lead in this case. Her cowardice and indecisiveness make her no different to other dictators,” he said.

At the same time, Somyos said he believed he would not be found guilty and sated that “the law [under which] he was charged under is unjust.”

It is worth noting that the delays in this case have caused Somyos to be imprisoned since 30 April 2011, meaning that his verdict will come after 21 months of incarceration that saw his case repeatedly delayed and Somyos chained and dragged around the country for meaningless provincial hearings.

Update: The Nation adds further to the judge’s comments on lese majeste and constitutionality, adding further to our comment that “royalist judges produce political rather than legal decisions.” According to the report, the judge stated the the alleged “reverence” for the king “is a unique characteristic found in Thailand and unlike anywhere else.” The judge is cited as having “further quoted from the Constitution Court’s ruling by adding that violating the lese-majeste law by defaming the monarchy was tantamount to ‘hurting the feelings of Thai people’, thus the harsher penalty compared to defaming an ordinary person was ‘justified’.” These nonsensical claims have nothing to do with law but much to do with politics and the cult of personality, which far from being “unlike anywhere else” is historically rather common.


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