Nurhayati Masoh

Nurhayati Masoh (rendered as Murhyatee in some early reports and later as Nuruhayati Masoe) was arrested some time in November 2016 (some reports say November 2017). Accused of lese majeste, the 23 year-old unemployed Thai-Malay Muslim from Yala was convicted on 4 January 2018 and sentenced to three years in jail.

Under the military dictatorship lese majeste cases have become increasing bizarre and cruel. Students, journalists, academics, workers, red shirts and many more have been charged and sentenced. In recent months this purge has included juveniles and the aged. Nurhayati ‘s case is another sad milestone in that she is blind.

Yala’s provincial court reduced the sentence by half after she “agreed” to plead guilty after being held in prison since November 2016 (or November 2017). It is reported that her charge related to her use of a voice-assisted application to post to Facebook. She allegedly re-posted material from Ji Ungpakorn’s blog soon after King Bhumibol’s death. Ji is himself accused of lese majeste and lives in exile.

The accusations against Nurhayati were made by Pipathanachai Srakawee, President of the Thailand Association of the Blind and a fervent royalist. Not only did he lodge his complaint, but he repeatedly and obsessively pursued senior officials, police and prosecutors to ensure that she was charged, tried and convicted.

The callous royalist court claimed it was sympathetic to Nurhayati because she’s blind but “said the law is the law…” and saying that her charge was “severe.” As is widely known, lese majeste in Thailand makes an ass of the law.

A couple of days after her conviction, the Muslim Attorney Center in Yala said it was planning to appeal the verdict on behalf of the convicted woman’s family. The foundation hoped to have the jail time suspended and also planned to seek a royal pardon.

In a bizarre twist to the case, it is reported that on 23 January, Nuruhayati’s relatives were told by an officer from Yala Provincial Court “that the convict was released on bail. The lawyer and her family confirmed that they did not know who is the bail guarantor or how much the bail cost.”

That her lawyers knew nothing of the bail application suggests something odd is going on and that someone very high up is involved.

The charges and conviction were later overturned on appeal. However, just a month after that, on 5 March 2018, the public prosecutor indicted Nuruhayati on a cybercrime charge for posting on Facebook a link to a radio programme hosted by red-shirt activists on 10 October 2016. The prosecutor claimed her action caused public panic and threats to national security. The court sentenced her to two years in prison but halved the sentence because she pleaded guilty.

The vindictiveness of lese majeste policing and prosecution is terrifying.

Media accounts of Nurhayati ‘s case:

Prachatai, 15 May 2018: “Blind lèse majesté convict faces new cybercrime charge

Prachatai,25 January 2018: “Blind lèse majesté convict mysteriously bailed

Prachatai, 10 January 2018: “Interview with blind man who sues blind woman for lèse majesté

The Nation, 6 January 2018: “Foundation to seek leniency for blind woman jailed for lese majeste

Khaosod, 4 January 2018: “Blind Woman to Serve 1.5 Years in Prison for Defaming Monarchy

Reuters, 4 January 2018: “Thai court jails blind woman for 1-1/2 years over royal insult

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