Another lese majeste casualty

15 04 2020

In a sad “end” to a lese majeste case that we don’t recall posting on previously, Prachatai reports that “Nathee (family name withheld), who was on bail pending an appeal against a conviction for expressing opinions about King Rama IX on Facebook, was found dead in a canal on 13 April after succeeding in his third suicide attempt.”

We have searched our files of cases pending and convictions and cannot locate this case. But, then, there have been hundreds and sometimes names change in reporting.

Reportedly mentally ill, Nathee took his life on 12 April.

Aged just 28 when arrested in September 2018, he was accused, charged with lese majeste, and eventually convicted over two Facebook posts poking fun at the dead king:

The first expressed his own opinion of wanting to teach King Rama IX about being enthusiastic about a ‘glass half-full’. The second made a joke out of the license plate number of the late King’s car.

While the first reference did not come from the king, the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary said that using the term could “cause misunderstanding to people.”

Later, following direction by King Vajiralongkorn, “the charges were changed to violations of the Computer Crime Act and Article 116 of the Criminal Code on sedition.”

In December, 2019, Nathee was found guilty of computer crimes and received 3 years in prison, reduced to 2 years for “useful testimony.”

His defense, that he was mentally ill and “incapable of controlling himself and unaware that he was violating the law” made no impact on the royalist criminal court.

The sedition charge was rejected “as Nathee’s act did not cause any unrest.” However, the ruling on computer crimes was:

[He] was guilty of uploading data which is an offence related to national security. The posts that were made public were likely to cause damage to the institution of the monarchy which is highly respected by the people, and amounted an offence against national security.

Natthee’s representatives appealed and he was on bail pending an appeal when he died.

Before the court, Nathee stated he was bipolar and “claimed that he would be in a normal state of mind until he surfed the net. He would then become angry and uncontrollable, feeling that his nervous system was connected to the internet signal.” He added that “he thought of himself as a Buddha and that his body was dominated by an extra-terrestrial being.”

In support, the court was told that “doctors had diagnosed Nathee with a mental disorder and that treatment would take a long time. His father also testified that Nathee had been under treatment with Decha Hospital since before he committed the offence.”

Nathee was not the first person with mental illness charged or convicted under laws used to “protect” the monarchy.

PPT can think of several other cases. In mid-2012, Thitinant Kaewchantranont was accused of lese majeste and convicted on 21 May 2014. Tanet Nonthakot was arrested on 2 July 2014 and accused of lese majeste, and convicted on 25 June 2015. In Chiang Rai, on 6 August 2015, Samak Panthe, a 48 year-old was dragged off to jail. In a Prachatai report, it was revealed that on 20 April 2016 military prosecutors have indicted Sao {real name withheld] on lese majeste charges.


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