On 30 August 2010, it was reported that the rabidly royalist group Network of Volunteer Citizens to Protect the Monarchy on Facebook met with Tharit Pengdit, the then Director of Department of Special Investigation to demand an investigation of country and blues singer Tom Dundee (Thanat Thanawatcharanon) for speaking at a red-shirt rally in a manner that they claimed constituted lese majeste. He was charged following the 2014 military coup.
On 1 June 2016, after agreeing to plead guilty, he was sentenced to 15 years, reduced to 7.5 years for that plea.
His cases becane when, as Prachatai stated that “Boworn Yasinthorn, President of the Network of Volunteer Citizens to Protect the Monarchy on Facebook met Tharit Pengdit, Director-General of … DSI…, urging him to prosecute singer and actor Tom Dundee for his public speech at a red-shirt rally in Ratchaburi province. The group submitted as evidence a clip of Tom Dundee’s speech which had been posted on the Youtube website…. They also asked the DSI to prosecute those who had disseminated the clip.”
Ever reliable on lese majeste, Tharit told the royalists “that the DSI would accept the case and investigate whether this can be construed as a conspiracy or not. The information will be added to the database of the DSI team investigating the plot to overthrow the monarchy…”.
Reports on Tom’s case are not particularly clear. A Prachatai report on 23 June 2015 states that Tom earlier spent 11 months in jail before the 2014 coup, before being released on bail. He was arrested again following the 2014 coup. Almost nothing more was heard about him or his case until June 2015.
It then became clear that Tom faced two cases. In the first case, he was accused of defaming the monarchy in speeches at red shirt rallies, in November 2013. The case is before a military court. Since his incarceration, a second lese majeste charge has been brought against him, along with computer crimes charges. This relates to videos that are no longer available on the internet. This case is before the Criminal Court.
Following the coup, Tom reappeared in court when he attended a military court to hear witnesses and evidence in one of his cases. He denied all charges and stated that he would defend the case.
The cases have dragged on. Royalists demand that those who refuse to plead guilty are punished with long trials.
It is reported that the military court heard witnesses in camera – in secret – on 4 August 2015.
Tom faces two lese majeste charges, meaning he could face up to 30 years in jail if he is convicted. In almost all lese majeste cases, “if” is unheard of, as almost everyone charged is convicted. He also faces up to 7 years on a computer crimes charge.
In a form of torture, Tom’s case has been interminably delayed. In late May 2016, it was reported that Tom, now 58, had finally acquiesced and agreed to plead guilty on his lese majeste charges.
Tom is quoted as saying that “he chose to plead guilty because he has been imprisoned for almost two years and he just wants to case to end as soon as possible in order to request for a royal pardon.”
Initially he pleaded guilty on the second case. However, his lawyer said that “his client might also plead guilty to another lèse majesté charge in the military court at the upcoming hearing on 21 June 2016.”
After he pleaded guilty, the Criminal Court scheduled a verdict hearing on the case for 1 June 2016. On that day, he was sentenced, as outlined above. In a bizarre twist, the royalist judge who read the sentence instructed Tom to pen a song promoting national reconciliation after he has served his time. In addition, he“was also told by the judge to plant trees in honor of the king once he completed his jail term.
The Military Court then got to work and sentenced Tom to 5 years in jail for lese majeste. The prison term was reduced by a third for a guilty plea.
In total, Tom got 20 years, reduced to 10 years and 10 months in prison. His lawyers say he hopes for a royal pardon.
Pleading guilty and begging for a royal pardon are considered by royalists as significant in re-establishing the sacrality of the damaged royal reputation by demeaning the person seeking a pardon and agreeing to plead guilty.
Prachatai, 11 July 2016: “Well-known red shirt singer gets extra-years in prison for lèse majesté”
Khaosod: 1 June 2016: “Singer Gets 7 Years for Lese Majeste, Must Write ‘Reconciliation Song’”
Reuters, 1 June 2016: “Thailand jails country singer for seven years in royal insult case”
Prachatai, 30 May 2016: “Well known red shirt singer pleads guilty to lèse majesté charge”
Prachatai, 23 June 2015: “Tom Dundee: French-educated country singer-turned-lèse majesté prisoner”
Prachatai, 17 September 2014: “ทอม ดันดี: จดหมายระบายความในใจ-การถูกจับกุม”
Prachatai, 31 August 2010: “Royalist group on Facebook urges DSI to prosecute a Thai singer for lèse majesté”