Lese majeste verdict due

14 02 2014

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Update: AHRC-UAU-007-2014

13 February, 2014

[RE: AHRC-UAC-154-2013: THAILAND: Court to read verdict in freedom of expression case]

THAILAND: Verdict in freedom of expression case rescheduled for the third time

ISSUES: democracy, fabrication of charges, freedom of expression, judicial system

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received update information about the case of Bantit (last name withheld), charged with violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code in Black Case No. 725/2548 (Red Case No. 1483/2549). Please refer to the urgent appeal case previously issued: AHRC-UAC-154-2013. On 17 February 2014, the Supreme Court verdict will be read at 9 am in the Bangkok Southern Criminal Court. The reading of the verdict, which had been scheduled initially for September 2013 and then December 2013, was postponed due to illness of the defendant.

CASE INFORMATION:

Bantit (last name withheld) is a 73-year-old writer and translator of over 30 books who has been accused of violating Article 112, the measure in the Thai Criminal Code that stipulates that, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished (with) imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” His case is a clear example of the use of Article 112 to constrict freedom of information and contribute to the creation of a climate of fear.

During an academic seminar on 22 September 2003, Bantit made comments and distributed leaflets containing his opinions and ideas. Subsequently, General Wassana Phermlarp, a former member of the Election Commission and General Secretary of the Anti-Money Laundering Office, filed charges with the police accusing his speech and leaflets of containing material that defamed the monarchy.

In March 2006, the Court of First Instance judged Bantit to be guilty and sentenced him to four years in prison. However, the Court chose to suspend this sentence due to his claim of schizophrenia. In 2009, the Appeal Court reversed the suspension of the sentence on the basis that Bantit was aware of the illegality of his actions and sentenced him to two years and eight months in prison. Unlike many other Article 112 cases, throughout the appeal process, Bantit has been permitted bail by the Appeal Court. This decision by the Supreme Court could then result in Bantit being forced to serve a prison term for his ideas.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges all concerned persons to attend the court as observers, and calls on other interested persons to follow the case closely. The Bangkok Southern Criminal Court is located on Soi 63, Charoen Krung Road, and is a short walk from either the Saphan Taksin BTS stop or the Sathorn stop of the Chao Phraya Express Boat.


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