Supreme Court upholds lese majeste sentence

10 06 2017

Chaleaw J. was 55 years old and a tailor when he was arrested in 2014. A resident of Bangkok and a self-taught computer geek who was arrested for allegedly lese majeste materials he stored at, a free file sharing and storage website.

He was accused of being a part of the Banpot network. Among the hundreds of clips stored were online red-shirt radio programmes and a few speeches by Banpot who specialized in radical anti-monarchist diatribes.  “I mostly forgot what I had stored there,” said Chaleaw.

He was detained by the junta on 3 June 2014 and charged on 9 June on lese majeste and computer crimes charges.

Chaleaw claimed that he did not distribute or intend to distribute the clips he saved and did not know that uploading the clips was a crime. At one time the authorities accused him of being Banpot, but Chaleaw insisted this was not so. He was intensively interrogated and was subjected to a lie detector test. Banpot was later arrested and jailed.

He was refused bail several times and stated that he “planned to confess once the trial began and hoped to seek royal pardon as soon as possible.”

On 1 September 2014, Chaleaw was found guilty under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and Article 14 of the Computer Crimes Act and sentenced to three years. This was halved and suspended for two years. He had already been held for 84 days. The suspension is a surprise in lese majeste cases, and PPT can only recall one other.

Prosecutors were aghast that a lese majeste conviction did not result in jail time and appealed.

In a secret appeals court hearing Chaleaw was sentenced to five years under Article 112 of the Criminal Crime Code and Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Code for importing illegal online content.

The jail term was halved to two years and six months because the defendant entered a guilty plea, but the court refused to suspend the jail term. The verdict was read in secret with no one allowed into the court except the defense lawyer and the prosecutors.

It was reported on 9 September 2015 that Chaleaw had been granted bail by the Supreme Court while he and his lawyers prepared an appeal.



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