He says he was apprehended on 24 June 2014 while on his way to a neighboring country to wait for his application for “Person of Concern” status to be processed by the UN refugee agency.
Some 40 fully-equipped officers raided and arrested his daughter, niece and nephew in Songkhla trying to grab Rung Sila. He tried to make contact with the UNHCR to seek asylum status but was then intercepted and arrested in Kalasin.
Rung Sila’s poems and his online articles and comments are “passionate and critical of the elite establishment.” He urges the people’s movement to move beyond the United Democratic Front Against Dictatorship. He says the UDD is “finished and the future of the country lay in the hands of individuals.”
On 13 November 2014, a military court in Bangkok ruled that this lese majeste case be heard in camera. It is reported that this was in spite of the presence of UN officials. As UN officials and representatives of other human rights organizations arrived for the case, the military’s prosecutor called for the case to be considered secretly. The claim for secrecy is made simply because the case involves the king.
The defense lawyer objected to this, but to no avail, as the court agreed that “a secret trial is needed for public morals.” His lawyer later stated that the defendant denied all charges. The military court refused to provide the lawyer with a copy of the hearing report, ruling that “the case is serious and involves the [most] important institution of the nation.” In effect, where the monarchy is involved, there is no law and human rights are trampled and thrown aside as meaningless.
Rung Sila has refused to plead guilty which invariably means he will face harsh treatment by the courts who also have a history of deliberately dragging out cases where a guilty plea is not forthcoming. His first hearing was in secret by a closed military court.
Rung Sila and his lawyer submitted a request to the criminal court under Article 10 of the 1999 Court Jurisdiction Act to seek a ruling on whether he should be tried by a civilian rather than a military court. On 22 September 2015, the Criminal Court ruled that it had jurisdiction over the case. The military court had earlier ruled that it had jurisdiction of the case.
On 20 January 2016, the Military Court of Bangkok read the Court Jurisdiction Committee’s decision. It ruled that because online content that allegedly defamed the monarchy still existed when the military junta issued Announcements No. 37/2014 and 38/2014 on 25 May 2014 to transfer the jurisdiction over lese majeste and national security cases to the military courts, Rung Sila’s case was to be heard by the military court. This was in line with the position put by the military court.
Going to the criminal rather than a military court was important for Rung Sila. As (so far) he refuses to plead guilty, being tried by the criminal court allows appeals, right up to the Supreme Court. Any verdict in the military court is final.
As the final verdict approached, in late September 2016, the military court objected to Rung Sila’s draft final statement for the court. In it, he stated:
If judicial authorities do not serve the principles of the law under a democratic society and the people, but accept the authorities of the coup-makers, who came to power by illegal means, then the judicial system and the rule of law will be destroyed.
The court objected and demanded that the statement be rewritten. It seemed that the military court considered such a statement was “disrespectful” of the court.
He refused and his lawyer resubmitted the statement.
A military court delivered two years suspended sentence on the lese majeste charge on 25 November 2016. It reduced this by a third for useful testimony. Thus he was given an 8-month suspended sentence and a 18,000 baht fine.
Rung Sila has already been in jail for two years and five months.
Media accounts of Rung’s case:
Prachatai, 25 November 2016: “Embattled lèse majesté suspect gets 2 years suspended jail term”
Prachatai, 10 October 2016: “Embattled lèse majesté suspect challenges military court”
Prachatai, 29 September 2016: “Embattled lèse majesté suspect accused of disrespecting military court”
Prachatai, 6 June 2016: “Imprisoned Poet Testifies: “Summoned again, I would again refuse”
Prachatai, 21 January 2016: “Jurisdiction dispute settled, military court gets to try lèse majesté case”
Prachatai, 24 September 2015: “Military and criminal courts disagree over lèse majesté case”
Prachatai, 21 January 2015: “Red-shirt poet facing 45 years in jail for lèse majesté will fight charges”
Prachatai, 15 November 2014: “Military court becoming even tougher on lèse majesté cases”
Prachatai, 24 July 2014: “Lèse majesté prisoners denied bail“