20 years on lese majeste

9 08 2017

Back in February 2015 the military junta began arresting people and charging them with lese majeste for allegedly being part of the Banpot anti-monarchist network.

By July that year it seemed that the arrests totaled 14.They were accused of distributing online materials that insulted the monarchy. Banpot produced radio programs distributed via the internet. His programs were long talk shows about politics and the monarchy. Many of the shows reproduced the rumors whirling around the royal family.

Two of these arrested decided to defend the case, which meant two years in jail for one named Tara W. while he was “convinced” to plead guilty.

Tara finally changed his plea to guilty on 26 June 2017. The Bangkok Post reports that on 9 August 2017 the 61-year-old Tara was jailed for 20 years “for posting six video clips deemed insulting to the monarchy…”. The military court backdated the 20 years to his arrest, meaning he has a further 18 years to serve.

Tara cannot appeal his sentence “because he was arrested while Thailand was under martial law.”





Updated: Torture and lese majeste

27 06 2017

Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists reckon that “Thailand had pledged 10 years ago to respect and protect the rights of all people to be free from torture and other ill-treatment by ratifying the Convention against Torture. But the organisations said they remained concerned that torture remains prevalent.”

We don’t imagine that the two NGOs are surprised. After all, Thailand’s military and police use torture regularly and as standard practice. They even use it when training their own recruits. It is just normal for the thugs.

One form of torture that seems relatively new relates to lese majeste. A few years ago, at about the time that the then government was “pledging” to end torture, royalist thugs came up with the idea of keeping those accused of lese majeste in jail until they confessed.

This form of torture has been refined. Now, those accused of lese majeste are kept out of courts until they confess. If they don’t confess, then court proceedings dragged out over months and even years, are secret. Sometimes not even family or lawyers know about the court date. Sometimes not even the defendant knows and courts take decisions without the defendant or a lawyer present.

Royalist courts are never going to provide justice in lese majeste cases. However, a guilty plea means the courts don’t even have to deal with the case. All they do is sentencing.

The most recent example of this kind of lese majeste torture involves a 59 year old man who has been locked up for three years until he finally entered a guilty plea.

The report says he faces up to 50 years in jail, but this is wrong (a point made later in the report) for it accepts that the sentence will likely reduced by half for his guilty plea and because Thailand “limits” sentences to 50 years. In fact, the nonsensical nature of lese majeste should be emphasized by noting that he could be sentenced to more than 100 years in jail.

On 26 June 2017, the “Military Court in Bangkok postponed the sentencing of Tara W., a 59-year-old seller of Thai traditional medicine accused of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, after he pleaded guilty.” He will now be sentenced on 9 August 2017.

Tara W. is one of the Banpot 6/8/10/14 (the number varied as arrests were made). He and another decided to fight the case (we don’t know any more about the other defendant). Tara sold traditional medicine but was accused of being the “owner of a tourism website, okthai.com, which is now blocked by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society.” It is even blocked overseas. [Update: Not blocked. Thanks to a reader for directing us.] Blocking seems to mean taking down but maintaining a blocked notice. We hope the regime is paying for the domain name.

As the report states, a “tiny corner of the website allegedly contained a banner with a link promoting the programmes of Hassadin U., also known as ‘DJ Banpodj’, the head of the so-called Banpodj Network, which has allegedly produced podcasts criticising the monarchy.”

Tara faces six lese majeste charges and other charges under the Computer Crime Act.

He had claimed that he “only uploaded them [the clips] for their information on traditional medicine.” He was arrested on 25 January 2015 and has remained in jail since.

That constitutes torture. There’s several other human rights mangled by the case, but readers should understand that this is now standard practice in royalist Thailand.





Supreme Court upholds lese majeste sentence

10 06 2017

Chaleaw J. was 55 years old and a tailor when he was arrested in 2014. A resident of Bangkok and a self-taught computer geek who was arrested for allegedly lese majeste materials he stored at 4shared.com, a free file sharing and storage website.

He was accused of being a part of the Banpot network. Among the hundreds of clips stored were online red-shirt radio programmes and a few speeches by Banpot who specialized in radical anti-monarchist diatribes.  “I mostly forgot what I had stored there,” said Chaleaw.

He was detained by the junta on 3 June 2014 and charged on 9 June on lese majeste and computer crimes charges.

Chaleaw claimed that he did not distribute or intend to distribute the clips he saved and did not know that uploading the clips was a crime. At one time the authorities accused him of being Banpot, but Chaleaw insisted this was not so. He was intensively interrogated and was subjected to a lie detector test. Banpot was later arrested and jailed.

He was refused bail several times and stated that he “planned to confess once the trial began and hoped to seek royal pardon as soon as possible.”

On 1 September 2014, Chaleaw was found guilty under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and Article 14 of the Computer Crimes Act and sentenced to three years. This was halved and suspended for two years. He had already been held for 84 days. The suspension is a surprise in lese majeste cases, and PPT can only recall one other.

Prosecutors were aghast that a lese majeste conviction did not result in jail time and appealed.

In a secret appeals court hearing Chaleaw was sentenced to five years under Article 112 of the Criminal Crime Code and Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Code for importing illegal online content.

The jail term was halved to two years and six months because the defendant entered a guilty plea, but the court refused to suspend the jail term. The verdict was read in secret with no one allowed into the court except the defense lawyer and the prosecutors.

It was reported on 9 September 2015 that Chaleaw had been granted bail by the Supreme Court while he and his lawyers prepared an appeal.





Secret lese majeste trial and a 10 year sentence

22 06 2016

Prachatai reports that a secret lese majeste trial before a military court resulted in a defendent being sentenced on 21 June 2016, to 10 years jail, halved for the more-or-less required guilty plea.

Taweesin (surname withheld) was charged “for uploading and sharing audio clips from the so-called anti-monarchy ‘Banpodj Network’.” More on the Banpot group, almost all now convicted, is available here.

Taweesin was “indicted by the military prosecutor … for uploading audio clips with [alleged] lèse majesté content recorded by Hassadin U., aka DJ Banpodj, a well-known red-shirt radio host at the centre of the alleged Banpodj Network, and sharing them on Facebook, banpodjthailandclips.simplesite.com, and OKTHAI.com between 2010 to January 2015.”

Unlike the rest of the Banpot “group,” Taweesin (and Kwanjai, surname withheld), chose to fight the case.

After being held in jail for a lengthy time, Taweesin apparently recanted his not guilty plea, and finally agreed to plead guilty. PPT has long pointed to this as a form of torture and coercion.





Banpot lese majeste cases continue

11 03 2016

On 2 February 2015, police announced the initial 6 arrests of the so-called Banpot network for lese majeste. The Banpot 6 became the Banpot 8, then the Banpot 10 and Banpot 12 as the military dictatorship expanded arrests. Later, a further two were arrested, making it the Banpot 14.

Ten of the alleged Banpot group were sentenced to jail on 14 July 2015, by a military court. Two were acquitted of lese majeste charges but found guilty of supporting the network. Two others decided to defend the case, which we said, a year ago, would probably means the torture of many months awaiting trial as the authorities attempt to convince them that a guilty plea is required.

Prachatai reports that on 24 January 2016, the first plaintiff witness testified in the court case against Anchan P. The witness was Pol Lt Col Olarn Sukkasem from the Technological Crime Suppression Division, known for having given prosecution evidence in numerous lese majeste cases following the 2014 coup. The second plaintiff witness is scheduled to testify to the military court on 16 May 2016. We will post on this case under Anchan P.

Anchan has been held in jail, without bail for more than a year.

When Anchan was first arrested she was 58 years old and was about to retire after working for the Revenue Department for more than 30 years. Because she has become a lese majeste suspect, she will not get any pension and benefits for her three decades of service.

The military raided her house and arrested her on 25 January 2015, and she was taken to a military camp. Her whereabouts was unknown until the sixth day after her arrest.

The Department of Special Investigation pressed lese majeste charge with 29 offenses on Anchan. The military prosecutor accused Anchan of publicising the Banpot clips on YouTube and Facebook, by using various usernames, such as anchana siri, Malee root, un un and Petch Prakery. The clips were uploaded from 12 November 2014 to 24 January 2015.

 





Another Banpot lese majeste conviction

30 12 2015

Prachatai reports on another lese majeste sentence handed out by a military court.

Some time ago, PPT post on the sentencing of a group we called, first the Banpot 6, which then became the Banpot 8 and expanded to the Banpot 10 and Banpot 14 as the military dictatorship arrested and charged them with lese majeste. A further two were arrested at a later time. The Banpot 10 (or 14) were all sentenced to jail on 14 July 2015 by a military court. All 10 had pleaded guilty in order to have sentences halved.

The group was are accused of working with the quite well-known Banpot (Hasadin Uraipraiwan) who was accused of producing radio programs distributed via the internet since 2010 or 2011. Banpot’s programs were long talk shows about politics and the monarchy. Many of the shows reproduce the rumors whirling around the royal family.

Two others enter not guilty pleas and their cases were treated separately. These two, including Hasadin’s wife, were not found guilty of lese majeste, but were convicted of supporting the activity of the network.

One of the two outstanding cases resulted in an “eight-year jail term for an elderly man charged with lèse majesté for uploading and sharing audio clips from the so-called anti-monarchy Banpodj Network.”

On 28 December 2015, a secret deposition hearing, sentenced Tanitsak (surname withheld due to privacy concerns), a 50-year-old photographer’s assistant from the northeast under Article 112. His term was halved after he finally agreed to plead guilty.

Tanitsak was arrested on 25 April 2015 in Chaiyaphum province and remained in custody since that arrest. He did not apply for bail, saying his family could not afford it.

Prachatai reports that a “total of 14 people were arrested for their alleged involvement in the Banpodj Network. They were separated into two groups of 12 and two, each group facing different charges. Two of the 12 decided to fight the case, while 10 pleaded guilty.”





No mercy

3 09 2015

Last year, Chaleaw J., a 55 year-old tailor born in Chaiyaphum, resident in Bangkok and a self-taught computer geek was convicted of lese majeste on 1 September 2014. He was sentenced to three years, which was halved and suspended for two years.

The prosecution was dumbfounded that a lese majeste case could see a person go free and so appealed. According to Prachatai, in a secret appeals court hearing Chaleaw was sentenced “to five years in jail of offenses under Article 112 of the Criminal Crime Code, lese majeste law, and Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Code for importing illegal online content.”

The report states that the “jail term was halved to two years and six months because the defendant pleaded guilty, but the court did not suspend the jail term. The verdict was read in camera and no one was allowed into the courtroom except the defense lawyer and the prosecutors.”

He was accused of being a part of the Banpot network.

For the royalists, this is “justice.”