Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul (also known as Num) was arrested at 5:30 p.m. on 1 April 2010. The 38 year old man in Pathum Thani Province was arrested by police for a video program called “Thailand’s Way Out” (“ทางออกประเทศไทย”) on the www.norporchorusa.com website that was considered lese majeste. Other reports suggest that the arrest was on 28 March. Apparently, the program had been shown on the red shirt People’s Channel and police had obtained a search warrant to search the People’s Channel premises.
The charges against him, however, related to the website listed above that included considerable anti-monarchy material and the case sought to warn Thais who posted to overseas-based websites or provide information to such sites.
The police stated that Tanthawut had confessed to distributing the statement with the screen name “Red Eagle.” Police say there are 2 to 3 other people being investigated. The police made the ludicrous claim that the arrest was unrelated to the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s dispute with the red shirt movement.
The police have filed charges under Section 112 of the Criminal Code which covers lese majeste and Section 14(3) of the Computer Crimes Act, meaning that the defendant could potentially face decades in prison.
Tanthawut denied the charges in court, which meant that he received no bail. His case came to court in early February 2011. The public prosecutor submitted a list of 12 witnesses, while the defendant submitted a list of 6.
Tanthawut’s trial began on 4 February 2011. During the trial, Tanthawut “told the court that he did not post the allegedly offensive messages and he was forced to confess by police, and insisted that he is not the administrator of http://www.norporchorusa.com.”
Earlier, Tanthawut said that “he was the owner of a company which designed and developed websites for customers mostly in the tourism and hotel businesses. In March 2010, a person contacted him at his website, http://www.redthai.org, asking him to design a logo and background for the website. They later corresponded through email, and he received a link to access the website via FTP (File Transfer Protocol). Through the link, he found one folder, but he could not go further than that.”
From the time that he was arrested, the police have cajoled him to confess to this “crime” with serious consequences. This is standard practice in cases involving the monarchy as the state authorities prefer to avoid trials and any scrutiny of their often flimsy “evidence.”
In Tanthawut’s case, they used his young son as the “bait” to force a confession. Initially, when he did not confess, he and “his 10-year-old son spent the night at the police station. The next morning, he woke up when someone came into the cell and told him that he did not love the king and he was a dangerous person. The police then resumed the interrogation, and repeated that he should sign quickly so that he could go back to be with his son, or else the social welfare department would come to adopt his son.” He “confessed.”
However, he soon “retracted the confession … and insisted to the court that he was not an administrator of the website and did not post the messages.”
On 15 March 2011, the court found Tanthawut guilty as charged – no surprises there – and sentenced him to a total of 13 years in prison. This is another draconian decision meant to protect the elite-dominated regime and the royalist ideology that underpins it.
On 21 March 2011, his lawyers went to the Appeals Court with 1.3 million baht in cash as a guarantee for Tanthawut while the case was appealed. As usual, his request for bail was denied, on the usual grounds that the charges are “serious” and that he “might flee.”
By April 2012, with no apparent progress on his appeal – yet another example of the cruelty inflicted on lese majeste victims – he will also seek to withdraw his appeal to seek a royal pardon. However, before he does that, he wants to know the outcome of yet one more bail application, made in February 2012.
In August he withdrew his appeal so that he could apply for a royal pardon.
The pardon finally came on 5 July 2013.
Media reports on Tanthawut’s case
AP, 5 July 2013: “Thai web designer convicted of defaming king freed”
Prachatai,15 October 2012: “We think the same: A Letter from Thanthawut”
Prachatai, 23 August 2012: “Release of two lèse majesté convicts today delayed”
Prachatai, 3 April 2012: “Amphon withdraws appeal and will seek royal pardon”
Prachatai, 23 March 2011: “Thanthawut denied bail”
Prachatai, 16 March 2011: “Nor Por Chor USA web designer sentenced to 13 years in jail”
Bangkok Post,15 March 2011: “Webmaster gets 13 yrs for lese majeste”
AP, 15 March 2011: “Thai Webmaster Gets 13 Years in Prison”
Prachatai, 11 February 2011: “Court to rule on Thanthawut’s case on 15 March”
Prachatai, 11 February 2011: “Update on trial of Thanthawut Thaweewarodomkul”
Prachatai, 5 February 2011: “First hearing of alleged NorPorChorUSA administrator”
Prachatai, 12 August 2010: “Trial of Norporchor USA webmaster set for February next year”
Prachatai, 2 April 2010: “Webmaster of www.norporchorusa.com arrested”
Bangkok Pundit, 2 April 2010: “Another lese majeste arrest”