Sombat Thongyoi

Sombat Thongyoi, or Num, aged 52 when arrested, was sentenced to six years in jail after his social media posts were deemed to constitute lese majeste. In addition, he was found to have violated the Computer Crimes Act in three Facebook posts he made in October and November 2020.

Sombat is a former head of volunteer guard groups during the Red Shirts protests in 2010 and was involved in monarchy reform protests from 2020. Previously, he had been a Yellow Shirt, joining People’s Alliance for Democracy protests against Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Criminal Court ruled that Sombat posted three social media posts, including one with the phrases “very brave”, “very good” and “thank you” – mimicking the king when he gave support to ultra-royalists – that was posted along with a news article about university students who refused to accept their diploma from members of the royal family. The court said the ceremony is sacred so for Sombat to make fun of it by using the phrases was equal to lese majeste.

A second post said: “They told you to reduce the budget you spend, not lower yourself to be close to the people. Did you misunderstand something?” The post added that the person alluded to tried to get close to the public because they know the public does not want them, and that they were doing so to gain publicity, but it was too late. The post referred to the person’s actions as a “soap opera.” The court interpreted this as an attack on the king. Around that time, the king and members of his family who were campaigning against monarchy reform protests.

The third post said: “They’re giving out autographs, just like celebrities.”

Sarayut Shangwanthong, who filed the complaint against Sombat, claimed the two posts were about the king, since people waiting to greet the King and his entourage at the Equestrian Statue of King Chulalongkorn were allowed to take pictures with him, and some also asked the king to sign his portraits.

In May 2016, Sombat was reportedly abducted by soldiers, from his residence in Samut Prakan Province. His abduction was a part of a military crackdown, claimed to be a crime operation, that detained political dissidents associated with the red shirts and Puea Thai party politicians.

In 2020, when the regime returned to using lese majeste charges in an effort to crush the monarchy reform movement, Sombat was listed by police as receiving a summons on lese majeste charges.

Sombat has been detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison pending his appeal. He’s been held without bail since 28 April 2022.

Media reports on Sombat’s case:

TLHR, 28 November 2022: “Don’t Forget Sombat: Freedom Taken, Right to Bail Denied, Convicted for Facebook Posts, and Detained for Seven Months

Prachatai, 22 July 2022: “7 activists indicted, denied bail for Democrat Party protest

Thai Enquirer, 27 May 2022: “List of detainees still in government custody for protesting and assembly

Prachatai, 13 May 2022: “Jailed activist’s hunger strike enters 22nd day, more lèse majeste arrests

Prachatai, 29 April 2022: “Man sent to prison on royal defamation charge over Facebook posts

Prachatai, 25 November 2020: “Lèse majesté returns as an activist summoned, 11 more expected to follow

Prachatai, 12 May 2016: “Cameraman in Samut Prakan reported abducted by military

Prachatai, 12 May 2016: “Politicians, political dissidents caught up in junta’s mafia crackdown

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