He was arrested on 7 January 2015, having been apprehended a few days earlier, with police and military accusing him of lese majeste and Computer Crimes law breaches.
Pongsak was reportedly on a list of 17 people summoned by the military junta on 9 June 2014. He failed to show up, so the police are also to charge him with failing to report to the junta.
According to the police, who paraded Pongsak at a press conference, he used Facebook under the name “sam parr” to allegedly distribute messages and images they consider defame the monarchy.
Pongsak, 48, reportedly admitted his guilt at the press conference, saying his posts were instigated by Facebook friends. He was also said to have attended red-shirt demonstrations. The implication is that red shirts are republicans.
His gargantuan sentence was reduced to an eye-watering 30 years because he entered a guilty plea. He received 10 years on each count and could easily have received 15 years on each charge for a total of 90 years.
Pongsak’s lawyer Sasinan Thamnithinan lamented that this was a sentence that’s “broken the record…”.
Because Pongsak was arrested under martial law and the military dictatorship, and tried in a military court, “there was no right to appeal against the sentence…”.
A later Reuters report adds considerable detail about the case. Pongsak told Reuters that he thought he was entrapped by a poorly chosen Facebook friend. Pongsak had been posting pro-red shirt commentary on Facebook, including six postings that were later deemed to have defamed the royal family.
He had made an online acquaintance with a man who shared his views, and who invited Pongsak to visit in Phitsunalok. As the bus arrived on 30 December 2014, soldiers and police boarded the bus and took him to a Bangkok army base. Within days, Pongsak met his Facebook “friend.” He was among the officers interrogating him.
Pongsak’s lawyers accuse authorities of using a fake Facebook profile to lure him into a trap.
He appeared before the military court in a closed – secret – trial.
Media accounts of Pongsak’s case:
The Irrawaddy, 4 September 2015: “Thai Junta Hits Royal Critics with Record Jail Time”
The Independent,7 August 2015: “Thai man jailed for 30 years for Facebook posts insulting monarchy”
AFP, 7 August 2015: “Thai man jailed for 30 yrs for ‘insulting’ royals on Facebook”
BBC, 7 August 2015: “Thai man given record jail term for insulting monarch”
SBS, 7 August 2015: “Thai ‘royal insult’ man gets 30 years jail”
Anadolu Agency, 7 August 2015: “Thai court hands man 30-year jail term for lese-majeste”
The Guardian, 7 August 2015: “Man jailed for 30 years in Thailand for insulting the monarchy on Facebook”
Prachatai, 28 January 2015: “Personal Facebook messages lead to lèse majesté arrest”
Prachatai, 14 January 2015: “Thai police arrests ‘movement’ of online monarchy defamers”
Prachatai, 7 January 2015: “Man arrested for defaming Thai King on Facebook“