A land deal lese majeste conviction

14 05 2015

Thai PBS News reports that Setthawut Pengdit, a younger brother of ousted Department of Special Investigation chief Tharit Pengdit, was sentenced to five years jail for lese majeste. As in many recent cases, because he agreed to “confess” and plead guilty, his sentence was halved to two years and six months.

In this report, Setthawut is described as “a land broker,” and in this role he “was accused of persuading land officials to issue title deeds for a land plot in Khao Nongcherm, Tambon Khanong Phra, Pak Chong district, which could not be legally bought or sold because it was part of reformed land scheme.” It was alleged that, with “land developer” Boontham Thepprathan, who wanted to establish a “high-end resort,”  Setthawut “claimed he knew Pol Lt-Gen Pongpat Chayaphan, former Central Investigation Bureau commissioner, and Pol Maj-Gen Kowit Wongrungroj, a former deputy commissioner, and could help arrange for the issuance of land title deeds for the land.” Earlier reports had it that the two claimed a “palace” was to be built.

It appears that this murky deal involved the army, police and “investors” making the land transferable by having the certificates illegally changed to “title deeds” without telling the residents.

Pongpat has already been sentenced to 12 years and Kowit to the same, both halved for guilty pleas, along with more than two dozen others involved in cases of association with Srirasmi, the former third wife to Prince Vajiralongkorn.

While the report states that Setthawut used Pongpat’s name, apparently the “court found Mr Setthavuth guilty of lese majeste charge for claiming connection with the high institution [the monarchy and, in this case, the prince] to help facilitate the issuance of land title deeds.”

On Boontham, “who denied the charge,” it is stated that “the court dropped the case against him and recommended the prosecution to file a separate charge against him.” It is unclear if this is a different charge or another lese majeste charge.


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