Chitpong Thongkum

chitpongAir Vice Marshal Chitpong Thongkum, who served with the King’s bodyguard, was sacked for alleged misconduct claimed to be damaging to the royal household. On or about 20 February 2017, he was charged with lese majeste.

At the time, Chitpong came to public attention because the Royal Household Bureau announced the stripping of his military ranks and eight royal decorations for “offenses” that were said to include stealing royal property, disclosing the king’s personal health records and failing to report to duty. It was not entirely clear what he had done to send the king into a rage.

He is reported to have been a medical practitioner to the king.

The royal household announcement at the Royal Gazette stated:

[Chitpong] disobeyed his supervisors and conducted himself in a manner inappropriate for his rank and duty…. Furthermore, he slackened, neglected and skipped his duties. He conducted himself undeservingly of His Majesty’s trusts, doing grave damage to His Majesty’s Household.

In record time, on 3 March 2017, Chitpong was in court and sentenced to a total of five years and six months for lese majeste and four other charges including theft at a state office and violations of the Cosmetics Act. The report stated that he was also fined 25,000 baht. His lese majeste sentence of five years was halved.

The Cosmetics Act is likely to relate to the medical practitioner’s health supplement company, set up in November 2016. This was a direct sales business called Richkarherbs and it seems Chitpong made references to suggest that the king approved of his organic health products. The website for that company said in late February 2017: “This account has been suspended. Either the domain has been overused, or the reseller ran out of resources.” There was still a Facebook page as we wrote this and a YouTube marketing video for the company’s business, but both are likely to be removed.

We guess Chitpong faced a secret trial, although no details were released.  It was a trial in a military court.

As is usually the case in all lese majeste cases, and not just those involving kingly bile, Chitpong’s sentence was reduced by half as Chitpong admitted all the charges before the court.

We guess he had no choice or he might have faced death in custody.

There is little information available on the case. Palace involvement, secret trials, forced guilty pleas and fear mean that those close to the king who get the boot are considered dangerous to report on and it is accepted that the king’s decisions, no matter how nasty can’t be adequately reported.

Chitpong is one of a growing list of persons associated with the prince-cum-king who, since late 2014, have been jailed on lese majeste charges.

Media accounts of Chitpong’s case:

AFP, 4 March 2017: “Thai king’s former aide jailed for royal defamation

The Nation, 4 March 2017: “Jumpol’s wife bailed on land charges

Reuters, 3 March 2017: “Thailand jails former palace aide for royal defamation

Khaosod, 20 February 2017: “King Strips Aide of Military Ranks, Royal Decorations