This was somewhat ironic as he has made numerous complaints of lese majeste against others; indeed his whole People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) movement was based on such accusations and claims of disloyalty to the monarchy against others.
Often referred to in the Thai media as a “media tycoon” and a “media firebrand,” Sondhi was a high profile leaders of the PAD, a right-wing and rabidly royalist movement. PAD played a role in bringing down the Thaksin Shinawatra government in the lead-up to the 2006 military coup. It also mobilized against the governments led by Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat in 2008, which PAD considered “proxy governments” for Thaksin. PAD eventually brought down Somchai’s government following its occupation of Bangkok’s two airports when it only left the airports following the Constitutional Court’s hasty dissolution of the People’s Power Party, meaning that Somchai’s government collapsed. PAD continued its demonstrations through 2009 and after, becoming even more ultra-royalist and ultra-nationalist.
PAD followers wear yellow shirts to show their loyalty to the king and Sondhi has always declared PAD’s fight as a fight to preserve the monarchy. PAD was the model for the anti-democratic People’s Democratic Reform Committee that paved the way for the 2014 military coup that brought down Yingluck Shinawatra and her elected government.
It took police until 22 January 2009 to complete his dossier and he stood accused of lese majeste after he referred to a speech given by Darunee Charnchoengsilpakul (alias Da Torpedo) when he was criticizing her and calling on the police to act against her. Sondhi was released on bail of 300,000 baht pending further decisions by the prosecutors.
On 17 April 2009, the media reported an assassination attempt on Sondhi. Many motives have been suggested (see The Times, 17 April 2009, “Thailand’s Yellow Shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul survives assassination attempt” and The Nation, 17 April 2009, “Sondhi in safe condition now: doctor”).
After further delays, in early July 2010, Sondhi was indicted by the public prosecutor for lese majeste. The prosecution brought Sondhi before the Criminal Court after the Office of the Attorney-General recommended that he be indicted for lese majeste. He was released on bail.
He also faced charges of defaming Thaksin and leading the airports occupation in 2008, but that latter case drags on and Sondhi avoided jail on other charges. However, he was eventually convicted of corporate fraud, in a case dating back to the 1990s. He received a 20-year jail term in 2016.
Before that, on 10 July 2012, Sonthi appeared in court on the lese majeste charge. He denied the charge. On 26 September 2012, he was acquitted on the lese majeste charge. The prosecution appealed, and in October 2013 he was convicted and sentenced to 2 years. He was freed on bail pending an appeal. That appeal eventually saw him acquitted on 10 February 2017, ruling he had no intention to insult the monarchy.
News on Sondhi’s case:
The Nation, 11 Febraury 2017: “Supreme Court quashes lese majeste case against Sondhi”
The Tribune, 2 October 2013: “Thailand’s royalist media firebrand found guilty for repeating anti-monarchy insult”
The Independent, 2 October 2013: “Founder of Thailand’s royalist Yellow Shirt movement jailed for defaming monarchy”
Asian Correspondent, 2 October 2013: “Ex-yellow shirt leader Sondhi found guilty of insulting Thai monarchy”
Global Times, 1 October 2013: “Thai ex-Yellow Shirt leader sentenced to two years in jail for lese majeste”
Washington Post, 1 October 2013: “Thailand’s royalist media firebrand found guilty for repeating anti-monarchy insult”
Jakarta Globe, 1 October 2013: “Thai ‘Yellow Shirts’ Founder Convicted of Defaming the Monarchy”
Voice of America, 1 October 2013: “Thai Activist Jailed for ‘Insulting King’”
Irish Times, 1 October 2013: “Thai Royalist Politician Sondhi Limthongkul Jailed for Repeating Insult to Monarchy”
Bangkok Post, 1 October 2013: “Sondhi gets 2 years for lese majeste”
AFP, 26 September 2012: “Thai ‘Yellow Shirt’ founder cleared of royal slur”
AFP, 21 August 2012: “Thai ‘Yellow Shirt’ founder denies royal slur”
Prachatai, 27 July 2012: “Sondhi to testify in lèse majesté case next month”
AFP, 10 July 2012: “Thai monarchist tried on royal insult charges”
Prachatai, 17 August 2010: “Sondhi Limthongkul’s lèse majesté trial set to start in Nov 2011”
Bangkok Post, 6 July 2010: “Sondhi faces lese majeste case”
National News Bureau, 2 April 2010: “Lèse-majesté case against Sondhi deferred”
Prachatai, 2 April 2010: “Sondhi to be issued with arrest warrant if he fails to report to police by 2 April”
Bangkok Post, 29 September 2009: “Decision on Sondhi case deferred”
The Nation, 22 January 2009, “Attorney to summon Sondhi on lese majeste charge”
Reuters, 24 July 2008, “Thai protest chief arrested over royal insult”
People’s Daily, 17 April 2008, “Anti-Thaksin leader a no-show for lese majeste interrogation”