About a week ago PPT posted on a story that police chief and wealthy businessman Somyos Pumpanmuang was about to arrest persons who spread rumors that self-appointed Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his wife sent ten billion baht to Singapore.
At the time, Somyos tried to link “the suspect … with 14 previously detained students from the anti-coup New Democracy Movement…”.
With Prayuth saying the “culprit” was from Thammasat University, it may have been a “surprise” that the “suspect” arrested turns out to be an alleged “red shirt.”
Police arrested and paraded Rinda Parichabutr, 45, at the police headquarters. She is charged with the equivalent of lese dictateur and faces up to 12 years for “violating Computer Crime Act, inciting unrest, and causing panic among the public.”
Odd that, for we saw no panic and no unrest. But we did see an upset, angry and nasty Prayuth.
According to Somyos, “Rinda wrote on her Facebook on 6 July that Gen. Prayuth transferred 10 billion baht to an offshore bank account in Singapore.” He claimed Rinda admitted to this.
Somyos went on to claim that Rinda had a “connection” with an “overseas anti-monarchy network headed by Manoon Chaichana, aka ‘Anek San Francisco,’ a Redshirt activist believed to be residing in the United States.”Police had previously attempted to create an Anek network responsible for a “second coup rumor” in June and a “red shirt bombing plot” in March. Both claims seem to have been part of an attempt by the military dictatorship to extradite lese majeste victims as “terrorists.”
Interestingly, at a “press conference” organized by the police, Rinda stated, quite reasonably: “I think that, as a citizen, I have the rights to criticize and express my opinion, since the Prime Minister is a public figure…”.
She is right, given that the civilian courts have previously ruled in exactly in this way in defamation cases, not least in some where Thaksin Shinawatra lost cases on the basis that he was a politician. Of course, Prayuth considers himself as above the station of politicians and above civilian law.
Update: Remarkably, when Rinda was jailed, a group of protesters assembled outside the Bangkok Remand Prison “to urge the release of an anti-establishment red shirt single mother charged with sedition for posting a false rumour about the Thai junta leader.”
The police are reported to have “charged her under Articles 116 and 348 of the Penal Code, the laws on sedition and on spreading rumours that might cause public panic…. [and] under Article 14/2 of the Computer Crime Code for importing false information into the internet.” She faces the prospect of many years in prison.
Protesters stated that “[p]osting a message doesn’t destroy national security. If the military is really strong, the [military] government which came to power like this should not be afraid of a small woman…”. Another added that the “security of Gen Prayut is not same as the security of the nation…. If you are the PM, you must be able to accept this. You are not the nation, the nation is the people.”
The Resistant Citizen Group demanded the woman’s unconditional release.
Not long after, a military court reversed an earlier decision and allowed Rinda bail.