The monarchy and “sedition”

7 10 2022

Readers will recall the “good news” from late last month, when a court in Khon Kaen rejected a lese majeste case against Tiwagorn Withiton. The bad news is that Prachatai has reported that on 4 October, the Lampang Provincial Court found Tiwagorn “guilty of sedition [Article 116] for inviting netizens to cast votes in a campaign asking whether the Thai people wanted to have a referendum about having a monarch as head of the state.”

The Court found Tiwagorn guilty “for his campaign message on 28 June 2021 on, a website known as an online space for starting social advocacy campaigns” where he asked “people if they agreed to a referendum on whether Thailand should have a monarch as head of state.” His call added: “We dream of a republican/federal state system that needs no monarch.”

The complaint by ultra-royalist Thawi Intha from the Network to Guard, Defend and Protect the Monarchy in Lampang. Tiwagorn lives in Khon Kaen and was forced to travel to Lampang for the trial.

Tiwagorn admitted that he posted the campaign message but claimed a constitutional right. Indeed, one of his witnesses argued “that questioning the form of government is a regular activity and that bringing this issue to the Court can be deemed as manoeuvring the monarchy down into a political debate. He also referred to a Facebook post of royalist MC Chulcherm Yugala which asked whether Thailand should be a “democracy” or “monarchy”. He saw this question as more radical than Tiwagorn’s.”

To no avail, and Tiwagorn “was sentenced to 3 years in jail, but was later paroled. Tiwagorn told TLHR, that he wanted to appeal as he finds that the ruling contradicts the Constitutional right to freedom of expression when it comes to monarchy issues. He believes that the ruling will be harmful to a democratic regime.”

The court’s ruling was reported this way:

The Court declared that Sections 1, 2, and 3 of the 2017 Constitution state that Thailand is a unified and inseparable Kingdom, governed under a democratic regime with the King as head of state. Despite freedom of expression being a constitutional right and freedom, it would have to be limited for the sake of the security of the state and the form of government.

Besides security restrictions, the Court mentioned that rights and freedoms can also be limited in order to protect the freedoms and rights of others and public morality. Moreover, it is a constitutional duty for Thais to protect the nation, religions, and monarchy.

Thus, Tiwagorn’s action went against the will of the Constitution and he was found guilty, but as multiple charges were filed over one offence, the Court found him guilty only of the charge with the heaviest punishment, and sentenced him to 3 years’ imprisonment for sedition.



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