Two strange lese majeste acquittals

23 02 2018

Prachatai reports that on 22 February 2018, “the Kamphaengphet Provincial Court ruled Atsadaphon and Noppharit (surnames withheld due to privacy concerns) not guilty of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, citing weak evidence.”

Sirindhorn

This unusual acquittal refers to a case that began on or about 20 August 2015, when the Kamphaeng Phet provincial court issued arrest warrants for Kittiphop Sitthirat, 23, Atsadaphon Sitthirat, 45, and Wiset Phutthasa, 30, on lese majeste charges. Later, a fourth name was added, Noppharit (surname not known), 28. Some of the suspects were arrested on 21 August 2015. They were all accused of “making false claims about Princess Sirindhorn in a scam.” Police arrested “charged them with lèse majesté, falsifying public documents, fraud, and impersonating officers from the Bureau of the Royal Household.”

The court reportedly gave “the suspects the benefit of the doubt, ruling that the evidence fail to prove that the suspects had actually made the false claims…”.

In part, this verdict is a way of avoiding a critical and contradictory issue.

From the beginning, two of the four challenged the use of Article 112. Lawyers for Noppharit asked the court to consider whether the case falls under Article 112 since that law does not apply to Princess Sirindhorn. The court attempted to prevent consideration of this issue, blocking information and access to it.

In handing down the acquittal, the court completely avoided this issue. It did not rule on Sirindhorn and lese majeste. We gather the judges were petrified that making a decision that followed the law and excluded her could have caused them to face lese majeste accusations.

Even stranger, though, is the fact that the two other suspects already succumbed to pressure to plead guilty and have been sentenced to three years and eights months in prison.

We wonder – but doubt – that there will be any revisiting of their cases. To do so would embarrass the court and would again raise the issue that no one wants or dares to touch – that Sirindhorn is not covered by lese majeste. We would also point out that there have been several other lese majeste cases involving her.

 

 





Jail for Sirindhorn “lese majeste” pair

30 05 2016

 On 20 August 2015 it was reported that the Kamphaeng Phet provincial court had issued arrest warrants for Kittiphop Sitthirat, 23, Atsadaphon Sitthirat, 45, and Wiset Phutthasa, 30, on lese majeste accusations. Later, a fourth name was added, Noppharit (surname not known), 28. Surprise, surprise, some of them were arrested on 21 August 2015. Yes, just a day later.

They were accused of having made false claims about the monarchy, falsifying public documents, fraud, and impersonating officers from the Bureau of the Royal Household. They were said to have been using Princess Sirindhorn’s name in an alleged scam.

The story and allegations is here.

They all initially denied lese majeste charges when brought to court on 21 December 2015. Lawyers for one of the accused made an obvious submission, asking the court to consider whether the case falls under Article 112 since that law does not apply to Princess Sirindhorn:

Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, Heir-apparent or Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.

She is none of those.

As has often been the case in the use of the lese majeste, the court chose to ignore the actual law and dismissed the request, saying “under the current procedure, it is not yet necessary to consider the request from the fourth suspect.”

Prachatai now reports that the provincial court has sentenced Kittiphop and Wiset. They were given jail terms of four years for lese majeste and three years and four months “for forging public documents and wearing uniforms of public officials without authorisation.”

As usual, because “the two pleaded guilty, the court, however, halved the total sentence for the two to three years and eight months imprisonment.”

The other two accused “have not pleaded guilty to the charges” and so are being kept in jail to “encourage” them to change their pleas and accept their “guilt.”

The lese majeste law has effectively been rewritten. These sentences suggest that the law should now read something like this:

Whoever defames, insults, threatens of says anything that someone in power thinks does this for the King, Queen, Heir-apparent, Regent, any other minor royal, a dead king, and ancient royal, or anyone else shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years, which can be multiplied several times when the prosecutors decide to treat each reference to one of these persons or dead persons as a case.

In other words, the actual law – the words used – no longer matter. Any royalist maniac can have the “authorities,” from The Dictator to a local cop, jump into action against anyone considered anti-royal or politically dangerous and get them jailed.





The Sirindhorn 4 lese majeste case

24 12 2015

red candleOn 20 August 2015, the Kamphaeng Phet provincial court issued arrest warrants for Kittiphop Sitthirat, 23, Atsadaphon Sitthirat, 45, and Wiset Phutthasa, 30, on lese majeste accusations. Later, a fourth name was added, Noppharit (surname not known), 28. Some were arrested on 21 August 2015. Their case has now come to court.

They were accused of having made false claims about the monarchy, falsifying public documents, fraud, and impersonating officers from the Bureau of the Royal Household. In fact, they are accused of using Princess Sirindhorn’s name and so we call them the Sirindhorn 4.

As readers will know, there have been a myriad of cases over the past year about similar alleged activities. All, however, have related to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, and have seen several deaths in custody and dozens jailed. This is the first we know of that is about claims allegedly made in Sirindhorn’s name. For those who follow the successionist debate, this case raises a niggling question regarding the alleged rift between Sirindhorn and her brother.

Siblings: Vajiralongkorn and Sirindhorn

Siblings: Vajiralongkorn and Sirindhorn

Two of the suspects are said to have cooperated with two others to claim that they belonged to the aristocracy and were related to the royal family with the rank of Mom Luang. They allegedly said they were working for the Royal Household Bureau. Kittiphop and Wiset are alleged to have made these claims to the head of the Pa Sai Ngam monastery in Kamphaeng Phet and also that they could invite members of the royal family to participate in religious events at the temple. In return they asked for 100,000 baht in “expenses.” All of this is related to claims about Princess Sirindhorn.

It is stated that all have denied lese majeste charges when they appeared in court on 21 December 2015.

Other police allegations against them are that “the gang” committed fraud by claiming that they were collecting funds to build a monastery and that this was used to “trick” high-ranking officials and others into donating money. The suspects reportedly collected about a million baht.

Noppharit, the fourth suspect, told the court that he does not know why he has been arrested and charged. He states that he does not know the other three suspects and is not involved in the alleged crimes. He was arrested on 21 August 2015. His family requested bail. As usual, the court denied it because the case involves the monarchy and there was a flight risk. All of this is the standard and cruel court practice in lese majeste cases.

Lawyers for Noppharit made an obvious submission, asking the court to consider whether the case falls under Article 112 since that law does not apply to Princess Sirindhorn:

Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, Heir-apparent or Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.

She is none of those.

As has often been the case in the use of the lese majeste, the court chose to ignore the actual law and dismissed the request, saying “under the current procedure, it is not yet necessary to consider the request from the fourth suspect.”

The next hearing in the case will be on 5 February 2016.








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