Wichai Thepphong

WichaiOn 23 December 2015, Chiang Mai Police arrested Wichai Thepphong (วิชัย เทพวงศ์) for allegedly creating a Facebook profile under a former friend’s name and posting allegedly lese majeste messages on it to damage his former friend. On 9 June 2017, a military court sentenced him to 70 years jail.

Lese majeste has mostly been used as a political tool to lock up opponents of authoritarian or military-backed regimes. However, there have been some cases reported where lese majeste has been used in personalized disputes. This is one of the latter cases.

The 33-year-old was charged under Article 112 of the Criminal Code after a military court issued an arrest warrant against him on 15 December 2015.

Wichai was arrested after the police received a complaint from an unidentified person that another individual had created a Facebook profile using the complainant’s name and posted messages allegedly defamatory to the monarchy.

The police concluded that Wichai, who had been a best friend of the complainant now turned foe, had created the fake Facebook profile.

Wichai agreed to change his not guilty plea to guilty after he’d been held in jail for so long. The military court promptly gave him the longest ever lese majeste sentence ever.

Two points can be considered. First, because the lese majeste law is both draconian and allows anyone to make a complaint, it is subject to abuse by anyone, including the authorities. Second, it is remarkable and a sad testament to authoritarianism, that this case has been the responsibility of a military court.

Media accounts of Wichai’s case:

Prachatai, 9 June 2016: “Military court breaks record with 35-year jail term for lèse majesté

The Guardian, 9 June 2016: “Man jailed for 35 years in Thailand for insulting monarchy on Facebook

Prachatai, 23 December 2015: “Facebooker arrested for lese majeste over copycat facebook profile