Phra Panya Seesun

Phra Panya Seesun is a monk who has fled into exile, first in December 2019 until May 2020, and again at an undisclosed date around October 2020, fearing a lese majeste charge.

He says he received a police summons on an undisclosed date, delivered to his temple outside Bangkok. He was being accused of defaming the powerful monarchy. Panya said: “They’re trying to put me in jail…”.

VICE News reports that “Panya’s case is unusual,” but insists that it sighted “the original summons for royal defamation.” However, when the monk “reported to the police station, he was told that the charges had changed to violating the country’s computer crimes act…”.

The monk believes it was his “Facebook posts from last year that first attracted attention from the police.” In these posts he shared information about King Vajiralongkorn’s controlling shareholding in Siam Cement. This was and is public knowledge and available in the SCG’s annual reports. But he also pointed out that “some monks were rising through the ranks because they were affiliated and personally selected by the monarchy,” and he “criticized links between the royals and the military-backed government…”. He was especially “outspoken over the fact that Vajiralongkorn has the authority to appoint the Supreme Patriarch, the top position in the Sangha, or Buddhist clergy. The change was adopted in 2017 to keep rules in line with a ‘long tradition’ where the monarch has been responsible for picking the candidate.”

Phra Panya states that the response from royalists to his posts was rabid as they bombarded “him hate messages and physical threats.” He adds that:

Many of the messages came from hugely popular royalists groups led by Thai celebrities. His name spread rapidly online from page to page. Panya estimates that there could have been thousands of hateful comments directed at him from numerous pages.

He states that his decision to flee was because “he stood little chance to prove his innocence…”. Panya stated:

From what I saw on the news, no one won lese majeste cases, no matter how nonsensical the charges may be…. The rulings were mostly abnormal and the interpretation ever more vague.

He won’t say where he is residing, “citing fears that he could end up like so many other exiles marked as critics of the monarchy who ended up dead or missing.”

Phra Panya “is now trying to travel to Europe and seek political asylum status; he believes he is the first Buddhist monk in political exile in recent history…”.

The monk was in limbo hoping for asylum. In mid-December 2020, it was reported that he had “arrived at a European country to seek asylum.” That report stated political “activist Nuttaa Mahattana had collected about 200,000 baht … in donations between Nov 21 and 30 to help Phra Panya flee the country.”

Phra Panya stated that he hoped “to build a temple outside Thailand to provide shelter to Thais who need to flee their homeland.”

Media accounts of Panya’s case:

The Star, 11 December 2020: “Activist helps monk facing charges to flee

Khaosod,17 November 2020: “‘I Don’t Want to Die Before My Mom,’ Monk Fled Thailand for ‘Insulting’ King

VICE News, 13 November 2020: “A Buddhist Monk Was Accused of Criticizing the Thai King. He Fled the Country