Rung Sila or Sirapop

rung-silaRung Sila is the penname of a poet and cyber activist whose  name is Sirapop Kornaroot. At the time of his arrest he was aged 51. He was convicted of lese majeste on 18 January 2021, after spending almost 5 years in custody before being granted bail in June 2019. He was sentenced to 4.5 years in jail, with his time served counted, meaning he did not return to prison.

He was apprehended on 24 June 2014 while on his way to a neighboring country to wait for his application as a “Person of Concern” status to be processed by the UNHCR.

Some 40 fully-equipped officers also 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. UN officials and representatives of other human rights organizations arrived at the court but the military’s prosecutor called for the case to be considered secretly. The defense lawyer objected, but to no avail, and the court agreed that “a secret trial is needed for public morals.”Observers were ordered from the court.

Rung Sila’s 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.

He 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.

From VOA: Shackled

In another case against him, a military court delivered two years suspended sentence on a charge of opposing the military dictatorship 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.

In a document dated 30 May 2019, the Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Rung Sila’s detention arbitrary. It called on the Thai government to immediately release him and to pay compensation and other reparations.

On 7 June 2019, FIDH and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights joined in urging that he be released.

Rung Sila languished in jail as his in-camera trial dragged on and on, with the military regime and judiciary pressuring him to plead guilty.

He was finally released on bail on 11 June 2019 after almost five years of detention.

From VOA: Released

After Rung Sila’s release on bail he talked about being a political prisoner:

“Prison is like hell on earth. There is no human dignity in the cell,” says Siraphop, who adds he spent most of his days confined to a sweltering 5-by-12-meter room with 40 to 50 other men. “No food. No games. No books. Only drinking water.”

As a political prisoner, even conversation was denied him. He says inmates who ventured to chat with him were quickly reassigned to other cells and that he was relegated to the prison’s library detail to keep his interactions with others to a minimum.

“They try to isolate the political prisoners,” he says. “This is what life was like. Every political prisoner is treated like this.”

On 18 January 2021, he was found guilty under Article 112 and the Computer Crimes Act for online articles and poems published between 2009 and 2014 and said to have insulted and turned people away from King Bhumibol.

Rung Sila says that he will appeal the verdict, saying that he would prove that the lese majeste law had been exploited as a political tool against those who are oppose military coups.

Media accounts of Rung’s case:

Thai PBS World, 18 January 2021: “Thai author imprisoned for four years and 11 months on lèse majesté charge

Khaosod, 18 January 2021: “Blogger Convicted of 112 After Secret Trial, 5-Year Captivity

The Nation, 18 January 2021: “Prachathai.com writer’s lese majeste charges confirmed after nearly 5 years in jail

VOA, 16 August 2019: “Thai Junta Critic: Prison Like Hell on Earth

Prachatai, 11 June 2019: “Long-time lèse-majesté detainee released on bail

FIDH, 7 June 2019: “Release long-time lèse-majesté detainee Siraphop Kornaroot, UN body urges

Human Rights Council, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, 30 May 2019: “Opinions adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at its eighty-fourth session, 24 April–3 May 2019: Opinion No. 4/2019 concerning Siraphop Kornaroot (Thailand)”

Prachatai, 6 November 2018: “UN body petitioned over the longest ongoing detention of a lèse-majesté defendant

Prachatai, 16 November 2017: “Trial for poet accused of lèse majesté drags on

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

20 responses

15 11 2014
Lawlessness and the king | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] the case reported, Sirapop (or Rung Sila) stands accused of poems on his personal blog and Facebook that allegedly violate Article 112 and […]

28 09 2015
Civilian vs military courts | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] first, reported a few days ago, involves Rung Sila or Sirapop (family withheld), accused of lese majeste. Rung Sila is the pen-name of a poet and cyber […]

28 09 2015
Civilian vs military courts | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] first, reported a few days ago, involves Rung Sila or Sirapop (family withheld), accused of lese majeste. Rung Sila is the pen-name of a poet and cyber […]

22 01 2016
Military court and lese majeste | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] ago, PPT posted on a challenge to the military court’s jurisdiction in one case that involves Rung Sila or Sirapop (family withheld). Rung Sila is the pen-name of a poet and cyber activist. He and his lawyer […]

22 01 2016
Military court and lese majeste | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] ago, PPT posted on a challenge to the military court’s jurisdiction in one case that involves Rung Sila or Sirapop (family withheld). Rung Sila is the pen-name of a poet and cyber activist. He and his lawyer […]

7 06 2016
Lese majeste and repression | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] second story is a long account of the anti-coup poet and cyber activist Sirapop who writes as Rung Sila, apprehended on 24 June 2014 and still imprisoned without bail, charged with various […]

7 06 2016
Lese majeste and repression | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] second story is a long account of the anti-coup poet and cyber activist Sirapop who writes as Rung Sila, apprehended on 24 June 2014 and still imprisoned without bail, charged with various […]

1 10 2016
An undemocratic and unprincipled court | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] military court has blown a gasket and popped some braid when lese majeste suspect Sirapop or Rung Sila jj presented a closing statement in his “trial,” arguing that “the court should […]

1 10 2016
An undemocratic and unprincipled court | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] military court has blown a gasket and popped some braid when lese majeste suspect Sirapop or Rung Sila jj presented a closing statement in his “trial,” arguing that “the court should […]

11 10 2016
Bravely challenging the military court | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Rung Sila is the penname of a poet and cyber activist named Sirapop. He was first arrested 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. […]

11 10 2016
Bravely challenging the military court | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] Rung Sila is the penname of a poet and cyber activist named Sirapop. He was first arrested 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. […]

25 11 2016
Rung Sila convicted on lese majeste charges | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] Rung Sila is the penname of a poet and cyber activist whose first name is Sirapop. At the time of his arrest on lese majeste charges, he was aged 51. He refused to plead guilty. […]

25 11 2016
Rung Sila convicted on lese majeste charges | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Rung Sila is the penname of a poet and cyber activist whose first name is Sirapop. At the time of his arrest on lese majeste charges, he was aged 51. He refused to plead guilty. […]

18 11 2017
Lese majeste and enforcing silence | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] need to add that our page on Rung Sila, having him already convicted on lese majeste, is mistaken, and we’ll fix that […]

18 11 2017
Lese majeste and enforcing silence | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] need to add that our page on Rung Sila, having him already convicted on lese majeste, is mistaken, and we’ll fix that […]

6 11 2018
Unending lese majeste detention | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Also known as Rung Sila, Sirapop has been held for almost 1,600 days without his trial in a military court having been completed. […]

6 11 2018
Unending lese majeste detention | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] Also known as Rung Sila, Sirapop has been held for almost 1,600 days without his trial in a military court having been completed. […]

7 06 2019
Release Rung Sila | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] have all urged that the military government “immediately release lèse-majesté detainee Siraphop Kornaroot [Rung Sila], in accordance with a ruling made recently by a United Nations (UN) body [Human Rights Council, […]

11 06 2019
Rung Sila bailed | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] reports that lese majest detainee Rung Sila (Sirapop Kornaroot) has been released on bail, having been incarcerated since 24 June 2014, soon after the junta seized […]

19 01 2021
Rung Sila convicted on lese majeste | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Rung Sila is the penname of a poet and cyber activist whose  name is Sirapop Kornaroot. He was arrested on 24 June 2014 while on his way to a neighboring country to wait for his application as a “Person of Concern” status to be processed by the UNHCR. […]