Lese majeste and the mentally unstable

23 04 2016

Back in August 2015, it was reported that a man named Sao (surname withheld due to privacy concerns) was accused of making false claims about royal property. He was accused of lese majeste. At the time it was said that he had been sent to a psychiatric hospital following three months of pre-charge detention.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights report that on 20 August 2015 Sao was sent to Galya Rajanagarindra Institute. No lese majeste case had been filed with prosecutors because the suspect was thought to be suffering from mental illness and needs to be treated at the psychiatric hospital.

Sao, from Chiang Rai and of the Thai Lue ethnic group, is said to have committed lese majeste when, on 13 March 2015, he submitted a complaint that Thaksin Shinawatra had allocated the king’s property inappropriately. He was summoned to hear the accusation in late May and held in custody in prison from 28 May to 19 August 2015.

In a recent Prachatai report, it is revealed that on 20 April 2016 military prosecutors have indicted Sao and he is charged with lese majeste.

Earlier, on 26 January 2016, the TLHR had “submitted a letter to the authorities, suggesting that the suspect should not be indicted due to his psychosis as Sao still claims that he has telepathic powers and maintains that his claims about the King’s property are true.” This was ignored because state psychiatrists ruled otherwise. The report states that “military prosecutors decided to indict Sao after psychiatrists from Galya Rajanagarindra Institute in Bangkok concluded in December 2015 that Sao is fit to stand on trial in a military court after he was sent to the Institute for an examination of his mental illness.”

He is “accused by the Criminal Division for Political Office Holders of the Supreme Court of making false claims about the monarchy’s property.”

However, the Military Court did grant bail.

This is not the first case of someone suffering a mental illness being charged with lese majeste. PPT can think of two other recent cases. Prachatai states that “because of the great sensitivity surrounding cases related to the Thai monarchy, the court usually refrains from dismissing the charges.” It is more than this. In fact, the deeply royalist institutions of the courts and military tend to consider everyone accused of lese majeste as somehow non-Thai and “mad” in the sense that they fall outside the rules established by the power elite.


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