42 years for lese majeste

29 01 2023

As we briefly mentioned in a recent post, Mongkol Thirakhote was recently found guilty of 14 counts of lese majeste by the Chiang Rai Provincial Court. The charges all related to Facebook posts deemed “insulting” of the monarchy.

Prachatai reports on his case.

Mongkol, now 29 is an online clothing vendor from Chiang Rai, was arrested in April 2021 while taking part in a hunger strike at the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court to demand the release of political prisoners held in pre-trial detention.

He was later charged under Article 112 and for computer crimes. He was accused of insulting the monarchy in 25 Facebook posts he made between 2 and 11 March 2021, “including messages referring to the King’s images, sharing video clips and foreign news reports about the Thai monarchy, and sharing posts from Somsak Jeamteerasakul’s Facebook page while adding captions.”

As far as we can tell, none of these reports and posts were incorrect or false.

Police searched his house in Chiang Rai and “confiscated several pieces of paper with messages written on them, a declaration by the activist group Ratsadorn, an armband with the three-finger salute symbol, and a red ribbon, and had his mother sign documents to acknowledge the search and confiscation. Mongkhon’s mobile phone was also confiscated when he was arrested in Bangkok.”

He was re-arrested in May 2021 and slapped with two further lese majeste and computer crimes charges for two other Facebook posts.

He got bail after both arrests.

On 26 January 2023, the Chiang Rai Provincial Court “found Mongkhon guilty of 14 counts of royal defamation, on the ground that 14 out of the 27 posts can be determined to be about King Vajiralongkorn and that they are an expression of opinion that is outside the limit of the law. As for the remaining 13 posts, the Court said that they were either about the late King Bhumibol or an undetermined person and dismissed them.”

It now seems that judges have been instructed to stick more closely to the letter of the law rather than convicting for statements regarding dead kings. In the past, the courts had concocted such convictions.

The court sentenced Mongkol to three years in prison on each of the 14 lese majeste convictions, meaning a total of 42 years, said to be the second lengthiest prison term for lese majeste. As usual, the court “reduced the sentence to 2 years per count because he gave useful testimony, giving a total sentence of 28 years…”.

The court had “ordered Mongkhon to be tried in secret, and that initially no one not involved in the trial was allowed inside the courtroom. Mongkhon’s lawyer had to ask the court for permission before Mongkhon’s parents could enter the courtroom.”

Mongkol “was later granted bail to appeal his charges on the condition that he must not do anything that damages the monarchy or leave the country. Since he posted bail using a total of 300,000 baht in security when he was arrested, the court did not require additional security.”

Arbitrary detention and digital dictatorship

16 01 2023

We note two recent reports worthy of attention.

The first is from the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has issued an appeal regarding Thailand.

It begins:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and ongoing judicial harassment of Mr Sopon Surariddhidhamrong, aka Get, leader of the student pro-democracy group Mok Luang Rim Nam, and Ms Natthanit Duangmusit, aka Baipor, member of the pro-democracy and monarchy reform activist group Thalu Wang. Founded in August 2020, Mok Luang Rim Nam has expanded from advocating for the rights of students at Navamindradhiraj University in Bangkok to various human rights issues in Thailand, including enforced disappearance, labour rights, and equality. Formed in early 2022, Thalu Wang has been advocating for the abolition of Article 112 of Thailand Criminal Code (“lèse-majesté”) and conducting public opinion polls at various locations in Bangkok on how the Thai monarchy affects people’s lives and whether the institution should be reformed.

On January 9, 2023, the Bangkok Criminal Court revoked Sopon and Natthanit’s bail and ordered their detention, on the ground that the two violated the bail conditions of their temporary release, granted on May 31, 2022, and August 4, 2022, respectively, by participating in an anti-government protest on November 17, 2022, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Bangkok….

It adds:

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Sopon and Natthanit, who seem to be only targeted for the legitimate exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly….

The second is from Global Voices. It begins:

A ministerial decree issued by the government of Thailand detailing procedures for the “Suppression of Dissemination and Removal of Computer Data from the Computer System B.E. 2565” took effect on December 25, 2022. The decree passed despite calls from various civil society organizations to withdraw the new regulation because it contains provisions that could further suppress online free speech.

Noting that content could be removed without a court order, NGOs considered the decree “another tool of control for the authorities to silence critical dissent, and a reflection of the digital dictatorship in Thailand.”

Another FB lese majeste conviction

11 11 2022

Sutthithep. Photo by iLaw, clipped from Prachatai

Sutthithep (last name withheld), 23, was charged with lese majeste and computer crimes for a post he made in a public Facebook group called “Free People” on 14 October 2020.  He was arrested on 9 April 2021 and the Criminal Court found him guilty on 8 November 2022.

He was sentenced him to 3 years in prison, reduced to 1 year and 6 months following the required “confession.”

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights state that he posted: “If insulting royalty or criticizing royalty sends me to hell, then fine. I’ll go to hell,” and followed up with a “message criticising the monarchy.”

The public prosecutor alleged that the post defamed the monarchy and damaged national security. That’s the prosecutor’s mantra in these cases.

It is reported that the complaint to police was made by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, one of 11 such complaints.

Following the complaint, “Sutthithep was arrested on 9 April 2021 at a shopping mall in Bangkok’s Raminthra area on an arrest warrant issued by the Criminal Court.” He was then transferred “to the Technology Crime Suppression Division headquarters and was detained at Thung Song Hong Police Station overnight before being taken to court for a temporary detention request the next day. He was then released on bail using a 90,000-baht security with the condition that he must not use social media to defame anyone.”

The Criminal Court “did not suspend his sentence due to a report from the probation officer that Sutthithep posted criticism of the monarchy on social media after one of his friends was injured in a clash between officers and protesters gathering on the route of a royal motorcade.” This was seen by the court as an action “intending to cause a misunderstanding about the King, damage his reputation, and cause the people to lose faith in him.”

Sutthithep is to appeal and was granted bail “with an additional security of 10,000 baht, bringing his bail security to 100,000 baht. His security was covered by the Will of the People Fund, a bail fund for people prosecuted for participating in the pro-democracy movement.”

It was in September 2022 that Sutthithep “decided to confess to the charges. He said that he was ready to face his sentence because he lives alone and has no family…”.

He was a member of “the activist group Nonthaburi New Generation Network and has been helping the group gather signatures for a petition to repeal the royal defamation [Article 112] law.”

Royalist Marketplace 112 conviction

8 11 2022

Prachatai reports that Nacha (pseudonym), 26, a single mother, “has been sentenced to 3 years in prison on a royal defamation [they mean lese majeste] charge for commenting on the monarchy reformist Facebook group Royalist Marketplace.”

She was charged under Article 112 and computer crimes “for commenting on a picture of King Vajiralongkorn…”.

Nacha was “arrested in Ang Thong on 6 June 2022 and taken to the Technology Crime Suppression Division headquarters in Bangkok.”

Her mobile phone was confiscated by police and she “was interrogated without a lawyer or family member present and confessed during the interrogation.”

On 7 November 2022, the Criminal Court found her “guilty and sentenced her to 3 years in prison. Since she confessed and has never been found guilty of other charges, the Court reduced her sentence to 1 year and 6 months, suspended for 2 years. She must also report to a probation officer once every 4 months for a year and must do 12 hours of community service. The Court also confiscated her mobile phone.”

Nine-year 112 sentence

22 10 2022

Clipped from Prachatai

Based on Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reporting, Prachatai has an account of the quite bizarre case of Pakpinya (last name withheld), 31, a  hospital librarian, singer, and model living in Bangkok.

Bizarre is the right term for the whole “case,” cobbled together on yet another complaint by ultra-royalist vigilante Pasit Chanhuaton. He has filed Article 112 complaints against at least eight people with the police in Sungai Kolok.

On 19 October 2022, a court in Narathiwat sentenced Pakpinya “to 9 years in prison on charges of royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act for sharing Facebook posts about the use of violence to disperse pro-democracy protesters in 2020 and the public being prohibited from using Sanam Luang.”

Phasit searched for and identified six posts he attributed to claiming they constituted lese majeste. He claimed these shared posts were from Facebook pages belonging to activist groups.

Some of these posts criticized police crowd control when they used water cannon against protesters, He claimed that Pakpinya “added a caption saying that people would be able to enter if they wear a yellow shirt.”

The royally deranged Pasit also accused her of sharing a post from คนไทยยูเค claiming that the king ordered the use of violence against protesters. He alleged that she also shared a post critical of the royal use of Sanam Luang while the people were locked out.

Three other posts were about enforced disappearances and the regime’s mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccine production.

TLHR point out that while the police did little investigation and Pasit lied, the court still founf Pakpinya guilty in three of the six instances.

Pasit said:

… he has never met Pakpinya, but insisted that she is the owner of the Facebook profile he filed a complaint against.

During cross-examination, Phasit claimed that he was not involved with the royalist group Citizens’ Network to Protect the Monarchy, even though he stated when he filed his complaint that he was a member. He also claimed not to know who the group’s leaders or members were, and that he knew that the network has been filing royal defamation complaint against people in various provinces, but did not know where.

Phasit said that he took screen captures of the posts from his mobile phone and did not print them out from Facebook, so there was no URL for each post, and that he adjusted the size of each picture before putting them into Microsoft Word and printing them out.

The police apparently didn’t investigate any of Pasit’s claims or his “evidence.” For instance:

Pol Maj Natee Chansaengsri, an inquiry officer at Su-ngai Kolok Provincial Police Station, also testified that he did not ask to see Phasit’s mobile phone, or for the original files of the photos he printed out. The police also did not confiscate Phasit’s mobile phone and laptop, so he could not confirm whether the content used to file the complaint matched with what is on the Facebook profile.

He also said during cross-examination that it was not possible to determine the IP Address that uses the profile, and that identity could not be determined from a YouTube account. He admitted that it is possible for Facebook accounts to share names and that he does not know if information on Facebook can be changed by another person.

After the verdict, Pakpinya was later granted bail with a 200,000-baht security. She said: “I want to know how twisted the Thai justice system can be…”.

The answer is very twisted indeed.

Tiwagorn’s 112 good news

30 09 2022

Some relatively good 112 news. According to media reports, the “Khon Kaen Provincial Court has dropped a lèse majesté case filed against Tiwagorn Withiton, whose picture wearing a shirt printed with “I lost faith in the monarchy” went viral in 2020.”

The lese majeste charge against Tiwagorn resulted from his “I have lost faith in the monarchy” t-shirt and his Facebook posts about it. His first appeared in the shirt on 16 June 2020 and wore it to the market and on the farm.

The ruling given on 29 September 2022, with the Court finding “that the evidence did not prove that the defendant intended to defame or express hostility to the monarch.”

After the ruling, Tiwagorn is reported as saying: “I’m also surprised because I really thought I would get it. This is beyond my expectation. Is this mercy?”

Tiwagorn was prosecuted for lese majeste, sedition, and computer crimes on 26 or 27 May 2021. His t-shirt statement caused a stir as he was not defaming or criticizing the monarchy, but declaring his own loss of faith.

This act initially confused the state’s monarchy police who tried to convince him to give up the t-shirt and not advertise his lost faith. When he refused, his mother was told lies by officials, and he was arrested, dragged from his home, and forcibly admitted to Khon Kaen’s Rajanagarindra Psychiatric Hospital. Officials seemed to believe that anyone who had no faith in the monarchy was mad. In fact, though, they were concerned to prevent a social media blitz of other announcing this loss of faith in the corrupt institution.

He was discharged from the hospital following a public campaign demanding his release.

At the time, the police announced that they would submit the case to the Bureau of the Royal Household for their decision on further action.

Tiwagorn was re-arrested on 4 March 2021 and taken to Tha Phra Police Station in Khon Kaen on charges under Article 112, Section 116, and the Computer Crimes Act because of Facebook posts he made on 11 and 18 February 2021.

On 26 May 2021, he was informed that the public prosecutor had decided to proceed with the case. The Khon Kaen Provincial Court accepted a lese majeste case filed against Tiwagorn. He was granted bail using a security of 150,000 baht.

The court’s decision may still be appealed by prosecutors.

Singing lese majeste

3 09 2022

Clipped from Prachatai

Citizen reporter Sao Nui was arrested on the evening of 1 September 2022 “for singing a song composed by the band Faiyen during a protest on 23 August 2022.”

After her arrest, she was taken the Narcotics Suppression Bureau where she was held overnight. After some debate over a police request for her to be detained, the court granted bail on 2 September.

As well as lese majeste, she was charged under the Computer Crimes Act for singing “Lucky to have Thai people.” Prachatai explains that the song “relates how Thai people are made to love the King through many means and the punishment the people will face if they do not love the King.”

Sao Nui and another citizen reporter, Worawet, already faced 112, sedition, and resisting an officers’ order charges for a Thaluwang royal motorcade poll at Siam Paragon on 8 February 2022.

Royalists courts play royalist politics II

2 09 2022

Arnon Nampa, facing up to a dozen lese majeste charges, and himself a lawyer with long experience of defending political prisoners, has asked the Judicial Commission, an in-house board meant to keep the judiciary in order, and the Chief Justice of the Criminal Court “to investigate Attakarn Foocharoen, Deputy Chief Justice of the Criminal Court, whom he accuses of meddling in his [lese majeste and computer crimes] court case without having any authority to do so.”

The case goes back to a protest on 8 November 2020 calling for monarchy reform. Anon received a letter on 4 August 2022,” calling an additional [previously unscheduled] hearing, and stating that the witnesses examined in the previous hearing were not related to the event at issue.” That letter was “signed by Attakarn and dated 21 July.” Attakarn is not a member of the committee considering the case, and “[b]y law, it is the responsibility of the judge who oversees the case to plan the trial process and approve what witnesses shall be heard.”

Arnon reckons “Attakarn’s intervention would infringe the judge’s independence.”

Legal niceties and the law itself seldom impinge on lese majeste cases.

Arnon (L). Clipped from The Nation

Arnon “insisted that the trial must be free from interference by Court administrators.” It was revealed that Attakarn had used his position to intervene in “many other political cases…”.

The justice system, always worrisome for its corruption, has been blatantly politicized and instrumentalized since the dead king’s intervention in 2006. The judges now at the top of the judiciary have been eager to serve king and regime.

Port Faiyen slapped with 9 years on 112

15 08 2022

Thai PBS reports that on 15 August 2022, the royalist Criminal Court has sentenced Parinya Cheewinpatomkul aka Port Faiyen, to 9 years in prison for breaching Article 112 and computer crimes in three Facebook posts.

Port, aged 37, is a former member of the Faiyen band. Following the 2014 military coup, the Faiyen band fled to Laos and eventually received asylum in France. Port’s illness convinced him not to travel to France and he returned to Thailand for medical treatment. For a time, to protect him, there was an illusion created that he was in France. When he returned to Thailand, he deactivated his Facebook account, and it took the authorities some time to track him down. He was arrested sometime in early March 2021 and charged with lese majeste.

He has now been found guilty for critical posts on social media, which according to Thai PBS were “about the 2016 Turkish coup d’état attempt.” The report seems unwilling to say more about the other posts (see below) but states that there were “three Facebook posts he made in 2016” that led to the charges.

We assume that this was when he was in Laos.

Port was given a three-year sentence for each post. This was commuted “to six years for his useful testimony.”

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, and roughly translated by PPT (see the originals here for an accurate rendering in Thai), the three messages were:

Message No. 1, 27 April 2016:

The monarchy (with lèse majesté laws with severe penalties to protect it) is one ignorant thing. Anyone who claims to be against superstitions but informs on people who disagree with Article 112, that person is a liar and a cruel person.

Message No. 2, 16 July 2016:

There is no king to sign a coup d’etat #Turkey #Turkish coup {he posted a news story]

 Message No. 3, 30 July 2016:

The song of the monarchy institution, monarchy institution, monarchy institution, monarchy institution. It’s a fucked-up institution. What institution hits people’s heads, ordered people killed? Support the coup, what institutions do not criticize? It uses dictatorship to dominate society. It works through the courts, soldiers, police, damn it. Monarchy institution, monarchy institution, monarchy institution. Fucked institution. What institutions monopolize good deeds, takes tax money, trampling on the poor? What institution is the richest? Cheating and robbery. Teaching people to be self-sufficient. It’s never enough, greedy, obsessed with power, you bastard dog.

The melody and the hook have been written for months. but just finished composing the whole song a few days ago The guitar part has been recorded. If you’re lucky within this year, you might be able to hear it. (Unfortunately, within the next year) P.S. I don’t know what institution. There are many institutions. It can be interpreted broadly, haha.

Parinya had denied all the charges against him during the investigation and trial.

TLHR reports that his lawyers will appeal and Port was released on bail with a 300,000 surety.

Dancer-activist in 112 arrest

6 08 2022

Clipped from Prachatai FB. Photo attributed to Kaimaew Cheese

Prachatai reports that on 4 August 2022, Mint (pseudonym), a traditional Thai dancer-turned-activist, was arrested at her house on Article 112 and computer crimes.

It is reported that her “crime” was posting a picture of a protest sign criticising the handling of lese majeste cases.

Police officers told Mint “that they were taking her to Yannawa Police Station and that she should tell her lawyer to meet there.”

However, like other recently detained on similar charges, she was actually taken to “the narcotics suppression bureau, which is outside Yannawa police’s jurisdiction.”

A later Prachatai Facebook update stated that a court allowed bail of 200,000 baht. As usual, bail was conditional. She must not repeat her offenses, not interfere with court proceedings, must stay at home between 19.00 -06.00, and must not leave the country.

Currently, at least 28 political dissidents and activists are still being detained.

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