Sarawut (family name withheld)

112Sarawut (surname withheld), an optometrist in Chiang Rai was charged with lese majeste before a military court, accused of defaming Prince Vajiralongkorn, now king.

On 11 October 2016, the Military Court of Chiang Rai granted police permission to detain the 32-year-old father. He was also charged under the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.

Though Sarawut’s lawyer told the court judges that his client has to take care of his young sons, yet a bail request with a land title deed valued at 400,000 baht as surety, was denied citing flight risk and the severity of the charges.

The investigation of Sarawut’s case began when soldiers from the 37th Military Circle of Chiang Rai filed a complaint under Article 112 against Sarawut on 21 July 2016.

After the complaint was filed, the police confiscated Sarawut’s electronic devices with a search warrant on 26 August 2016.

On 26 October 2016, a military court again denied bail. Earlier, Sarawut’s relatives and lawyer had offered a land title as bail surety along with cash, amounting to 500,000 baht in total. As usual, the military court denied bail, blathering about “the severity of the charges, flight risk and fear that the suspect might commit further crimes.”

On 17 November 2016, the Military Court of the northern Chiang Rai Province granted bail to Sarawut.

He again appeared before the military court on 29 December 2016, and was indicted and held in custody.

When Sarawut again appeared before a military court on 7 February 2017, he vowed to prove his innocence. It seems he has been granted bail.

On 11 April 2017, the Chiang Rai Military Court scheduled the first examination of witnesses in this case. The trial will hear 10 prosecution witnesses and four witnesses will testify for the defendant. The first hearing will begin on 12 June 2017.

According to iLaw, on 8 August 2019, the Chiang Rai Military Court transferred Sarawut’s case to the Chiang Rai Provincial Court. Sarawut stood trial in the military court for 2 years and 10 months from October 2016 to August 2019, with just 7 witnesses examined. Repeatedly, “witnesses” for the prosecution did not show up for hearings.

Media accounts of Sarawut’s case:

Prachatai, 17 April 2017: “Military court to try suspect accused of defaming King Rama X

Prachatai, 7 February 2017: “Opthamologist accused of lèse majesté deny charges

Prachatai, 7 January 2017: “Optometrist indicted for lèse majesté

Prachatai, 18 November 2016: “Lèse majesté suspect arrested for posting images of Crown Prince released

Khaosod, 27 October 2016: “Military court denies bail for lèse-majesté suspect again

Khaosod, 11 October 2016: “Military court detains man for posting images of Crown Prince