Initial reports were that the suspects arrested and accused of lese majeste and computer crimes were Pol Sgt-Major Prathin Chanket, who was formerly with the Border Patrol Police, Pissanu Phromsorn and Nattapon.
In late November, a list of suspects was published: Nattapon, Prathin, Phitsanu Promsorn, 58, Wanlop, 33, Chatchai Sriwongsa, 24, Meechai Muangmontree, 49, Thanakrit, 49, Weerachai, 33, and Pahiran Kongkham, 44.
Yet by early 2016, the names listed in reports were Nattapon, Wanlop and Weerachai. In the end, this opaque case, with fit-ups, frame-ups and confusion means that it is not clear how many of the suspects face lese majeste charges. It could be 1, 3, or even 9.
Military prosecutors from the Judge Advocate General’s Department charged them with under Article 112 and crimes under Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act for allegedly contacting each other online while planning to stage an attack on the Bike for Dad propaganda cycling rally.
These three were arrested and detained from late November 2015. Police Commissioner said that in total there were nine suspects in the case, most of whom are associated with the so-called Khon Kaen Model uprising that was never established, dating from soon after the coup in 2014. The main point is to ensure that the “plotters” are considered red shirts.
Police claimed that one of the planned operations by the group was the assassination of General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the junta leader.Another police allegation was that Pol Sgt Maj Prathin and Nattapon and seven others were plotting to stage “terrorist attacks” and capture military and police camps as well as government installations in many northeastern provinces.
Police claimed that these cases involved lese majeste because the suspects had been contacting each other via Line Chat Application to prepare the terrorist plot on the auspicious event for the King.
The suspects claimed innocence.
The case became murkier when it was revealed that Thanakrit, who the authorities claimed claimed was “on the run,” had in fact been incarcerated in a Khon Kaen jail since mid-2014 as a “Khon Kaen Model plotter.”
The deliciously dumb response from the junta came initially from General Prawit Wongsuwan. He said that:
… although Thanakrit was in prison he must have done something against the law, otherwise the court would not have approved the warrant for his arrest…. He might have been in some communication (with outsiders). Ask him. He must have done something wrong. The court must have gone through all the requested warrants individually before approving them. A warrant can’t simply be issued without legal backing….
Meanwhile, the Director of the Central Correctional Facility in Khon Kaen confirmed that Thanakrit would have been unable to engage in external plotting, saying that it is strictly forbidden for inmates to use mobile phones and illustrated that a signal would ring immediately if the prison phone interception devices detect phone signals coming from the cells and that signal blockers operate.
Thanakrit’s lawyers threatened legal action against the authorities. For this action, the police filed charges against the lawyer Benjarat Meetian and Thanakrit was transferred from Khon Kaen to a remand black site in the 11th Military Base on Rama V Road in Bangkok.
Media accounts of the “plotters”:
The Nation, 20 March 2016: “Lawyer complains to EU about ‘intimidation’”
Prachatai, 24 February 2016: “Suspects in alleged terrorist plot indicted for lèse majesté”
Prachatai, 6 January 2016: “Prisoner transferred to jail in army base over lèse majesté conversation”
Bangkok Post, 30 November 2015: “Prawit: Warrant for behind-bars suspect approved by court”
Bangkok Post, 28 November 2015: “‘Khon Kaen Model’ suspect to counter-sue”
Bangkok Post, 26 November 2015: “Prayut and Prawit targeted for violent attack”
Bangkok Post, 26 November 2015: “Police seek Khon Kaen ‘unrest plotters’”
The Nation, 25 November 2015: “Three held for plotting attacks during ‘Bike for Dad’”