Opas Charnsuksai was arrested on 15 October 2014 and charged with lese majeste. He was convicted on 20 March 2015, by a military court, and sentenced to 3 years in jail, halved for the essentially compulsory guilty plea required by military courts considering lese majeste cases. On 16 October 2015, he was found guilty and sentenced to the same sentence as in the first case. He is jailed for three years.
Opas was arrested after soldiers were dispatched to Bangkok’s Seacon Square shopping mall and was accused of writing allegedly anti-monarchy graffiti. Cleaning and security staff claim that Opas was seen writing the graffiti inside toilet stalls.
Initially, Opas was paraded before reporters and, according to a Khaosod report, told them “he wrote the remarks because was angry about the coup and wanted to express his discontent. He said he wanted to leave anonymous messages because he was unable to air his opinions openly due to lese majeste laws.”
Naturally, under arrest with military and police pressing him, Opas said he “now regrets his actions and ‘incorrect’ thoughts about the monarchy.” He added that his opinions were “based on what I read in the media…. I want to caution the public … to carefully consider which media information is right and wrong. Don’t jump to conclusions.”
When reporters asked about his views on the monarchy, Opas reportedly stated that “he was merely curious why the monarchy enjoyed so much privilege. He told the media that he listened to pro-democracy community radio FM 88.5.”
A royalist military officer reportedly stated: “I don’t want the people to have incorrect understanding about the Higher Institution…. [he means the monarchy] Listening to information can lead to misunderstanding. I want the people who still think and act in this way to stop their behaviour before they are arrested.”
According to a Prachatai report, the alleged messages “mainly criticized the junta leader Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Democrat [Party] government which ruled the country” from 2008 to 2011. The graffiti allegedly condemned the two governments for abusing lese majeste.
According to Prachatai, one of the pieces of graffiti read:
The government of clowns that robbed the nation, led by f*** Prayuth. They have issued ridiculous policies of amateur comedians. Their main job is to use the monarchy (uncle [censored by Prachatai is allegedly a reference to the King, merely describes a physical description of a person]). Their main weapon is Article 112. I’m sick of seeing your face [Prayuth] every day. It tells me that you [Prayuth] are near the end because of the looming internal conflict.
As so often happens in such cases, bail requests repeatedly denied despite being a “diabetic and … battling with retinopathy.” The grounds for refusal were the usual: the charges are “serious” and the 67 year-old was a “flight risk.” While we might guess that the military courts and its “judges” are highly dubious in any matter related to justice, they are as soft-headed as the civilian court judges.
On 16 October 2015, a military court sentenced Opas to three more years of imprisonment for lese majeste. In a closed court appearance, the judges halved the sentence for the almost mandatory guilty plea. This sentence relates to another alleged instance of anti-monarchy wall scrawls at the same mall.
Opas now faces three years in jail. He cannot appeal the sentence as it was handed down by the military court.
Taking the two cases separately is a part of the torture associated with Thailand’s feudal judicial system under the military dictatorship.
Media accounts of Opas’ case:
Prachatai, 16 October 2015: “Elderly man gets additional 1 year, 6 months jail for lese majeste messages in restrooms”
Prachatai, 20 March 2015: “Military court sentences elderly man to 1.5 years in prison for lèse majesté graffiti in restroom”
Prachatai, 25 November 2014: “For 4th time military court rejects bail for old man charged for lèse majesté graffiti”
Prachatai, 13 November 2014: “67-yr-old man charged with lèse majesté graffiti denied bail 2nd time”
Prachatai, 1 November 2014: “Military court denies bail for man making lese majeste graffiti for 2nd time”
Prachatai, 21 October 2014: “Military Court not grant bail to lese majeste suspect writing messages in mall’s restrooms”
Prachatai, 17 October 2014: “Man charged with lèse majesté for writing messages criticizing junta in mall restrooms”
Thai PBS, 17 October 2014: “Man held with lese majeste for writing graffiti in the toilet of a mall”
Prachatai, 17 October 2014: “Man arrested for writing lese majeste messages in mall’s restroom”
Khaosod, 17 October 2014: “67-Year-Old Man Arrested For Insulting Monarchy In Bathroom Stalls”