Natthakarn Sakuldarachat

In early 2012, the processing of the lese majeste case against Ms. Natthakarn Sakuldarachat was reported. This was her name at the time of the original claims of lese majeste against her. She has since changed her name to avoid harassment by ultra-royalists. Remarkably, the Bangkok Post made her name public.

Much of the initial information here was from posts by Somsak Jeamteerasakul at New Mandala.

Natthakarn was born in May 1992. At the time of receiving a police summons regarding allegedly anti-monarchy statements at her Facebook page when she was a minor, Natthakarn was a first year student in the Faculty of Social Welfare at Thammasat University.

One account claims that the girl, who appeared on a red shirt stage way back in 2009 in the rally on Privy Council Prem Tinsulanonda’s house, was expelled from high school because of her political views.

During the period March to April 2010, Natthakarn (or “Kan Thoob” the nickname she used online at the time), had just finished high school (she moved to another province to complete) and had passed the written examination for entry to the Silpakorn University. She posted comments on her Facebook page. These were apparently seen by some royalists, led by Sondhi Limthongkul’s Manager Online, as anti-monarchy, and they accused her of lese majeste, and attacked her online and in various yellow-shirted media outlets.

These vicious attacks continued into academia. The Dean of the Silapakorn Faculty (a known royalist) rejected her as new student, claiming she was not qualified because of her lack of loyalty to the monarchy. Recall that at the time of her posting to Facebook she was just 17 years old. She was also rejected by Srinakharinwirot (Prasarnmit) University.

At that time, her case gained considerable media attention, and was mentioned in a Freedom House report:

In addition to legal repercussions, internet users who post controversial content can face societal harassment, termed “online witch hunts” by local observers. In a case reported in May 2010, an 18-year-old high school graduate became the subject of an online hate campaign over her alleged insult of the monarchy. The woman claimed that she was refused a place at Silpakorn University because of her Facebook postings, and expressed fears of a physical attack after her name and address were posted on public websites. She said that she faced hostility in her neighborhood as well as threatening leaflets and phone calls, and that police had refused to accept her complaint. [53] A network of users calling themselves the “Social Sanction” group has actively sought out individuals who have expressed views deemed to be disrespectful of the monarchy and launched online campaigns to vilify them. In some cases, these campaigns have sparked official investigations of the targeted individual.[54 – see p. 14]

Blogger Andrew Spooner also wrote about this case here.

Natthakarn then decided to take an oral examination at Kasetsart University but again ultra-royalists hounded her and threatened a protest at the university. She declined to show up, thus forfeiting her opportunity for entry there. In fact, she sat out university for a year.

In mid-2011, she entered the Faculty of Social Welfare at Thammasat University, where her case was well-known and there was more tolerance. However, royalists apparently lodged a lese majeste complaint with the police.

Again it was Sondhi’s Manager Online that learned that Joss Stick was studying at Thammasat University’s Social Administration Department and this outlet “and the people who have been hounding her demanded to know why Thammasat accepted the girl’s enrollment.”

It is worth citing the response of Thammasat’s Somkid Lertpaitoon, as taken from Manager Online:

As for the girl Joss Stick, people have sent me emails. But no one has sent me any facts. Thammasat knew from the beginning who this girl was. When she passed the exam, the school had two meetings to consider her admittance. The conclusion was to admit her. She passed the exam, how could we not let her study? How can we punish her for something she supposedly did before studying at Thammasat? I believe we should not bully a child.

Words and behaviour that are aggressive, insulting and derogatory to the royal institution _ are they true? I do not know. Nobody has told me. So we can’t presume anything. Not one person has given me any facts. But if it is true, then Thammasat will investigate. To discipline [a student] is a normal thing. But if you were to say this girl cannot study here because of this and that reason, Thammsat cannot accept this. There’s liberty in every square inch of Thammasat. If she insulted the King, then she would have been charged. Many people Facebook-ed me, saying this girl did this and that. I ask you this: if she did it, why don’t you inform the police? All the teachers at Thammasat agreed that we should accept her. And if she does wrong [while attending Thammasat], then we will handle it according to the rules and regulations of Thammasat.

It is unclear when the police complaint was made. It is believed that the summons was issued by the Bang Khen Police at the end of October 2011. Matichon reports that,

an investigator at the police station said that as complaints had been made against her, she was summoned for interrogation, when she would be informed of the charges.  However, as the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology did not confirm that the accused had really posted the comments, the investigating team at the police station decided not to prosecute her.  And considering the fact that when the alleged offenses were committed, the accused was only a minor, less than 18 years old, and ‘should not have harbored a radical political idea’, the police investigators assumed that ‘someone else had posted the comments under the name Kan Thoop’.

The investigating team decided to drop the case more than two months ago, and forwarded the decision to the Metropolitan Police Command.  However, a deputy commander ordered them to have her interrogated, and the team had to summon her, said the police officer, adding that she could ask to postpone the meeting if necessary.

The date she was summoned to appear was re-scheduled twice, finally being set at 10 a.m., Wednesday 11 January 2012. She has requested a postponement and will now appear at the police station on 11 February.

At the last moment, on 10 February 2012, police postponed their summons, admitting that they needed more evidence and more witnesses before interviewing her. To date, the police say no formal charge has been made.

Media accounts of Natthakarn’s case:

Prachatai, 11 February 2012: “Police postpone Kan Thoop’s summons indefinitely

Prachatai, 2 February 2012: “Kan Thoop to report to police on 11 Feb

Prachatai, 9 January 2012: “Kan Thoop’s police summons postponed to 11 Feb” and “Matichon Interview with ‘Kan-thoop’.

Bangkok Post, 8 January 2012: “Witch hunt for red Joss Stick

4 responses

15 01 2012
Uncivil social media and lese majeste « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] claims that the attacks and harassment of the then minor Kan Thoob “shouldn’t be considered a witch-hunt, but an ‘attempt to seek the truth and […]

11 02 2012
Potentially good news for Kan Thoob « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] potentially good news for 19-year-old, first-year Thammasat student and lese majeste victim Kan Thoob. She was due to appear before the police today on a lese majeste summons. However, Prachatai […]

11 02 2012
Potentially good news for Kan Thoob « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] potentially good news for 19-year-old, first-year Thammasat student and lese majeste victim Kan Thoob. She was due to appear before the police today on a lese majeste summons. However, Prachatai […]

23 04 2012