Stolen history 6

Arrested by the military on 29 April 2017, on 3 May 2017, a court approved the detention of six persons for alleged lese majeste for allegedly sharing a Facebook post on the theft of the 1932 revolution plaque on about 5 April 2017.

Initially detained incommunicado were human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul (57),  Danai (surname withheld due to privacy concerns), a political dissident from Chiang Mai, and four others, still unnamed.

Those arrested include company employees, a lawyer, a university lecturer, a recent graduate and a teacher. They appear to be political opponents of the military regime. Prawet has been critical of the military dictatorship and the lese majeste law. Danai was  initially reported to be accused of Facebook messages critical of the junta.

According to lawyer Arnon Nampa, the six are accused of lese majeste for sharing a Facebook post about the missing 1932 Revolution Plaque posted by Somsak, who is exiled in France. It is claimed the post called for Thailand to become a republic.

While the “ban” on contact with Somsak, Andrew MacGregor Marshall and Pavin Chachavalpongpun, many scoffed that enforcing the ban was likely illegal and difficult to enforce. But legalities and formalities have never been a barrier to the lawless military dictatorship.

So, the Criminal Court in Bangkok granted police custody over six people accused of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code. The police and military rounded the six up in different parts of the country in late April 2017. Other charges include computer crimes and sedition.

Prawet is accused of three separate charges under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, the sedition law, computer crimes and 10 counts of lese majeste. In total, Prawet faces up to 171 years in jail, although maximum sentencing in Thailand is 50 years.

The twinning of sedition and lese majeste tell us that the military dictatorship is determined to prevent any criticism of the king for his presumed role in the theft of the plaque. The military considers republicanism a cultural crime.

As far as we can tell, none of the six has been granted bail, although little has been heard of any of them other than Prawet.

The six were initially detained incommunicado at the 11th Army Circle base in Bangkok and then was handed over to police. Prawet is reported to have denied the charges from the time of his arrest.

So has Danai but the details of his alleged “crimes” were not outlined in the police submission to the court, raising questions about the legality of his detention (not that the junta is ever worried about law and legality).

Three of the other four suspects are claimed to have admitted sharing messages, while another suspect denied the charges. It is unclear what has happened to them.

Prawet appeared in court on 18 September 2017. He stunned the court by stating, in a prepared statement, that he did not accept the Thai judicial system and did not wish to examine witnesses and evidence against him.

Prawet’s challenge is to the court’s impartiality:

“Thai courts do not have the legitimacy to try the case. Therefore, I declare that I do not accept the judicial process in the case,” Prawais wrote, adding that he will not participate in the case nor grant authority to any lawyer to represent him.

Facing 50 years in prison, he believes that it will not make any difference whether he pleads guilty or innocent because he will not be able tell the truth anyhow.

The court, seemingly flummoxed, fell back on its usual approach on recalcitrant lese majeste victims and decided to drag things out and punish-torture Prawet. His next scheduled hearing will be on 8 May 2018.  Presumably, the court hopes that having him jailed will change his mind and he will plead guilty. If not, the court seeks to silence his criticism.

Prawet’s stand is brave and he’s undoubtedly correct. As far as we can recall, he is the first to challenge the courts in this way.

Media accounts of the Stolen History 6’s case:

Prachatai, 18 September 2017: “Human rights lawyer accused of lèse majesté defies authority of the court

Bangkok Post, 18 September 2017: “Lawyer forfeits rights to fight lese majeste case

Prachatai, 28 June 2017: “Court refuses to free human rights lawyer accused of royal defamation

Prachatai, 12 May 2017: “Bail denied to human rights lawyer facing up to 50 years jail

Khaosod, 10 May 2017: “Professor, Law Grad, Teacher Among 6 Charged with Lese Majeste

Prachatai, 10 May 2017: “University lecturer faces 15 years in jail for sharing FB post

Bangkok Post, 4 May 2017: “Rights lawyer faces up to 150 years in prison

Prachatai, 3 May 2017: “6, including human rights lawyer, arrested for lèse majesté