Sasiwimol‘s family name is not currently available. On 7 August 2015, this mother of two was sentenced to 56 years incarceration for lese majeste. This draconian sentence was halved following her guilty plea.
Her case began on 13 February 2015, when she was accused of posting six messages on Facebook that were claimed to defame the monarchy. She was brought to military court and detained at the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institute.
In fact, the first claim of lese majeste that led to the charges were from September 2014, when a vigilante Facebook group known as “Facebook Chiang Mai” filed a lese majeste complaint against a Facebook user “Rungnapha Kampichai” at a local police station. Shortly after that, the real Rungnapha Kampichai contacted the group, saying that the Facebook account was not her’s.
Police then searched Sasiwimol’s house in Chiang Mai and seized her mobile phone and computer. On 9 June 2015, the 29 year-old hotel employee appeared before a military court ion the lese majeste charge. She remained in custody and bail was refused at least four times.
When Sasiwimol appeared in a military court, the hearing held in camera. According to the court, this was because the case is related to the monarchy – which goes without saying as lese majeste only involves a few royal positions – and “might cause instability and affect public morale.” Then, Sasiwimol refused to plead guilty, stating that she was not interested in politics.
By 7 August she had been convinced to retract her pretrial statements and plead guilty.This has become standard procedure in these trials held in military courts, with the authorities threatening and cajoling defendants.
The military court then set about its punishment in the name of the king:
Prior to the ruling, Sasiwimol submitted a letter to the court, requesting the judges to reduce the jail sentence because she has never committed any crime and is a mother of two daughters aged seven and five. The military court judges dismissed the request and reasoned that the jail sentence is already light since case is severe because it is related to the revered Thai monarchy and gravely affected public sentiment of Thai people.
The military court handed out 8 years for each of the seven lese majeste counts. The royalists on the military bench then declared that “since the defendant pleaded guilty as charged,” the sentence was halved to 28 years.
Media accounts of Sasiwimol’s case:
Bangkok Post, 9 August 2015: “Government defends lese majeste sentences”
BBC, 7 August 2015: “Thai courts give record jail terms for insulting king”
New York Times, 7 August 2015: “Thailand: 2 Punished for Insulting King”
Prachatai, 7 August 2015: “Military court sends mother of two to 28 years for lèse majesté”
Prachatai, 10 June 2015: “Military court in northern Thailand holds lese majeste deposition hearing in camera“