Rung Sila convicted on lese majeste

19 01 2021

Rung Sila is the penname of a poet and cyber activist whose  name is Sirapop Kornaroot. He was arrested on 24 June 2014 while on his way to a neighboring country to wait for his application as a “Person of Concern” status to be processed by the UNHCR.

On 18 January 2021, he was convicted of lese majeste and computer crimes and sentenced to 4.5 years in jail. He had already spent almost five years in custody before being granted bail in June 2019. His time served counted, meaning he did not return to prison.

While detained, his case went to a secret military court which engaged in all manner of illegal activities to make Rung Sila’s case proceed slowly and without due process. It was only in 2019 that his case went to a civilian court.

In late September 2016, the military court objected to Rung Sila’s draft final statement for the court. In it, he stated:

If judicial authorities do not serve the principles of the law under a democratic society and the people, but accept the authorities of the coup-makers, who came to power by illegal means, then the judicial system and the rule of law will be destroyed.

The court demanded that the statement be rewritten, deeming it “disrespectful.” He refused and his lawyer resubmitted the statement.

Meanwhile, in another case against him, a military court delivered two years suspended sentence on a charge of opposing the military dictatorship. It reduced this by a third for useful testimony. Thus he was given an 8-month suspended sentence and a 18,000 baht fine.

Rung Sila says that he will appeal the verdict, saying that he would prove that the lese majeste law had been exploited as a political tool against those who are oppose military coups.





Updated: Rung Sila bailed

11 06 2019

Prachatai reports that lese majest detainee Rung Sila (Sirapop Kornaroot) has been released on bail, having been incarcerated since 24 June 2014, soon after the junta seized power in an illegal military coup.

That’s almost five years in jail while his in-camera “trial” dragged on since it began on 24 September 2014. His detention at Bangkok Remand Prison is “the longest time for a person currently charged or serving a prison sentence under Article 112.”

We earlier noted that the UN’s Human Rights Council had already declared his detention arbitrary and views his trial as unfair.

Essentially, he has been held for so long because he has refused to plead guilty. In recent years, keeping people accused of lese majeste in jail until they plead guilty has been a form of lese majeste torture.

Late today the Bangkok Military Court allowed bail and he was released at about 7.30pm.





Release Rung Sila

7 06 2019

The United Nations, FIDH and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have all urged that the military government “immediately release lèse-majesté detainee Siraphop Kornaroot [Rung Sila], in accordance with a ruling made recently by a United Nations (UN) body [Human Rights Council, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention}…”.

He’s “been detained for almost five years on charges under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code – one of the world’s toughest lèse-majesté laws – and Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.”

His “trial” before a military court, in secret, in September 2014 and after 20 previous court hearings the next hearing is on 10 June.

He has been repeatedly refused bail. In other words, this is another example of lese majeste torture, seen in several cases, where the regime and courts and probably the palace demand a guilty plea.

The Human Rights Council has already declared his detention arbitrary and views his trial as unfair.

Rung SIla is the eighth lese-majeste detainee whose detention has been declared arbitrary by the UN since August 2012.





Unending lese majeste detention

6 11 2018

Adilur Rahman Khan is the Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights or FIDH. He has recently stated:

The detention and prosecution of Siraphop Kornaroot violate his fundamental rights to liberty, freedom of expression, and a fair trial – all rights guaranteed by international treaties to which Thailand is a state party. It is very disturbing that after more than four years there is no end in sight for Siraphop’s trial and the military court, which should not try civilians in the first place, continues to deny him bail.

This statement is in the context of the FIDH and its partner organization, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights having petitioned the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, seeking the release of lese-majeste defendant Siraphop.

The statement by FIDH observes:

Siraphop, 55, has been detained for more than four years and four months – the longest time for a person currently charged or serving a prison sentence under Article 112. Siraphop was arrested on 1 July 2014 in Bangkok and is currently incarcerated at the Bangkok Remand Prison. Since July 2014, the Bangkok Military Court has rejected Siraphop’s bail applications seven times, the most recent today, 5 November 2018. His trial before the Bangkok Military Court has been ongoing since 24 September 2014.

Also known as Rung Sila, Sirapop has been held for almost 1,600 days without his trial in a military court having been completed.

In petitioning the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, FIDH and TLHR called for:

the immediate and unconditional release of Siraphop and for all the charges against him to be dropped. FIDH and TLHR also urge the government to end the abuse of lèse-majesté and immediately and unconditionally release those detained or imprisoned under Article 112 for the mere exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Sirapop has refused to plead guilty. This often leads to not just arbitrariness on the part of the military junta and judiciary, but a vindictiveness that amounts to lese majeste torture.





Lese majeste and enforcing silence

18 11 2017

PPT has posted over several years on the delaying of lese majeste trials where defendants refuse to plead guilty. We have referred to this as a form of torture. In addition to strenuous efforts to force defendants to plead guilty, those who don’t see their trials dragged out for years, while they remain in jail.

When trials begin, they are deliberately delayed and, in the case of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, he was dragged all over the country in chains and shackles, often kept in cages, as he was tortured for fighting his case.

Those who refuse to plead guilty are then sentenced to many years in jail – almost no one if found innocent.

The most recent case of this essentially lawless efforts by the courts on lese majeste is reported at Prachatai. It concerns Rung Sila, a poet and cyber activist whose first name is Sirapop.

(We need to add that our page on Rung Sila, having him already convicted on lese majeste, is mistaken, and we’ll fix that shortly.)

He has now been “imprisoned for three years and four months,” and has faced yet another postponed witness hearing as a military court drags out his lese majeste case. His lawyer makes the obvious point:

According to Anon Nampa, human rights lawyer representing the defendant, since he was arrested in June 2014, the court completed only one witness hearing in the case out of 6-7 plaintiff witnesses.

He added that one of the defendant witnesses, Surachai Yimprasert, has already passed away.

The lawyer said that it is as if Sirapop is being pressured to plead guilty….

Sirapop maintains his innocence.

Thailand’s courts, both military and civil, are disgraceful and pervert justice.





Lese majeste accused Rung Sila convicted on charges of opposing the dictatorship

25 11 2016

Rung Sila is the penname of a poet and cyber activist whose first name is Sirapop. At the time of his arrest on lese majeste charges, he was aged 51. He refused to plead guilty.

He was apprehended on 24 June 2014 while on his way to a neighboring country to wait for his application for “Person of Concern” status to be processed by the UN refugee agency.

Rung Sila’s poems and his online articles and comments are passionate and anti-establishment. He had urged a people’s movement to move beyond the official red shirts, the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship.

Not only was he denied bail several times but the military court decided to hold a secret trial.

During his trial, Rung Sila had criticized the judiciary for its connivance with authoritarian military rule.

On 25 November 2016, a military court delivered a two years suspended sentence on a charge o f opposing the military regime. It reduced this by a third for useful testimony. Thus he was given an 8-month suspended sentence and a 18,000 baht fine.





Bravely challenging the military court

11 10 2016

Rung Sila is the penname of a poet and cyber activist named Sirapop. He was first arrested on 24 June 2014 while on his way to a neighboring country to wait for his application for “Person of Concern” status to be processed by the UN refugee agency.

Prachatai reports that “[d]espite being accused of disrespecting the military court,” He has “refused to bow down, saying that the court should have defended democracy against coup-makers.”

On 4 October 2016, Rung Sila’s lawyer “resubmitted his client’s closing statement to the Military Court of Bangkok,” despite the military court having directed him to withdraw the parts it considered “disrespectful.” This is what he said:

If judicial authorities do not serve the principles of the law under a democratic society and the people, but accept the authorities of the coup-makers, who came to power by illegal means, then the judicial system and the rule of law will be destroyed.

Rung Sila now bravely stands by that statement and declares that military coups are a crime.

After his statement was resubmitted, the military court stated it would “deliver the verdict on the case on 25 November 2016.”

Sirapop was arrested on 25 June 2014 in northeastern Kalasin Province, while he was attempting to flee to a neighbouring country. The chances are that a vengeful and royalist “court” will seek a full 45 years imprisonment for this political prisoner.





An undemocratic and unprincipled court

1 10 2016

Prachatai reports that, a bit like the king, the royal family, dead royals, the military brass and the military junta, a military court may not be (even rather gently) criticized.

A military court has blown a gasket and popped some braid when lese majeste suspect Sirapop or Rung Sila presented a draft closing statement in his “trial,” arguing that “the court should interpret and enforce the law in ways which align with democratic principles and the rule of law.” He argues that courts should have a role in “resisting Thailand’s coup-makers.”

According to Prachatai, his statement was: “If judicial authorities do not serve the principles of the law under a democratic society and the people, but accept the authorities of the coup-makers, who came to power by illegal means, then the judicial system and the rule of law will be destroyed.”

Heaven (and royalists) forbid that any court in Thailand should work with such principles. The whole system of military rule, dictatorship of the minority and massive economic and political inequality might come tumbling down.

The judges of the military court demanded that Rung Sila “amend certain parts of his closing statement” considered to be “disrespecting the court…”. It is considered disrespectful to insist that courts should follow the law.

As well as being indicted for lese majeste, Rung Sila is accused of “violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta’s] Order No. 44/2014 and the NCPO’s announcements No. 37/2014 and 41/2014 for not reporting to the military after the 2014 coup d’état.”

He also observed that the junta’s “orders to summon him and others, most of which are political dissidents, are unlawful and that it is coup-makers themselves who should be prosecuted under Article 113 of the Criminal Code. Coups are considered as a crime against the state under this article.” (In addition, running a coup is an unlawful act of rebellion against the constitution and the legal government.)

We do not expect the a military court could understand principles of any kind, being the handmaidens of a murderous organization and of a dictatorial clique.





Lese majeste and repression

7 06 2016

In this post we wish to draw attention to two recent articles discussing lese majeste and its impacts both personal and society-wide.

It has become “natural” for royalist Thais to “defend” the monarchy in recent years. Of course, royalists have always done this – the restoration of the monarchy after 1932 and more especially after WW2 was about defending the monarchy and recalibrating to again rule. The latter kind of failed, except in the ideological space, but it was royalist generals Phin Choonhavan and most especially Sarit Thanarat who forged an alliance with the palace (and Seni and Kukrit Pramoj) to make the palace-military alliance that has been so powerful and handsomely rewarded generals and the royal family.

Much of the history of this remaking and partial restoration is unknown to average Thais who have been indoctrinated in schools and universities and by the use of mass media. This is attested in an article at the Bangkok Post, by Achara Ashayagachat, where her account of lese majeste and various kingly anniversaries seems to be one of a gradual political eye-opening.

On the spike in lese majeste cases, she says: “Observers attribute the increase of cases to intense political polarisation, following the 2006 military coup and concerns over the King’s health.” This is only a partial story, for as she states, lese majeste is “more often than not, it is used — or abused — as a political tool in cleansing or taking revenge on individuals or political opponents.”

It is a tool used by the royalist elite and its military allies, and not always for political opponents in the usual sense, but in a kind of “traditional” sense as well. This is seen in the post-2014 coup list of “68 lese majeste cases relating to opinions, poems, cartoons, and comments online during the last two years, excluding the 37 fraud cases that are linked to names of the royal family.”

These “fraud” cases have been made lese majeste cases, and we assume that it excludes the two men who mysteriously died in custody.

The second story is a long account of the anti-coup poet and cyber activist Sirapop who writes as Rung Sila, apprehended on 24 June 2014 and still imprisoned without bail, charged with various “crimes,” including lese majeste. The report is of Rung Sila’s case – until now, little known. He denies all charges and affirms that he will continue to fight the charges. He is being tried in secret before a military court. It took almost two years for his case to go before that kangaroo court.

His arrest was for failing to report to the junta. Even today, still jailed, he refuses to bow before that lot: “I did not believe that the coup makers, or, if you will, the traitors, would remain in power for long and I chose to defend rights, freedoms and the constitution peacefully and nonviolently, avoiding aggression, by simply not cooperating with the traitors.”

One aspect of the story that is revealing of events we at PPT had never previously heard was of the junta’s own involvement in the interrogation of Rung Sila:

There was a major session on the final evening in military custody with 50 officials led by an admiral with the NCPO. The admiral told him that he had been constantly monitored and that there were many items that had come to the attention of military war rooms during multiple periods of unrest…”.

He was interrogated by dozens of thugs, but the involvement of “an admiral with the NCPO” – the junta – is another eye-opener. (The only admiral in the junta at the time of the coup was Admiral Narong Pipatanasai.)

Both articles deserve attention.





Civilian vs military courts

28 09 2015

There have now been two disagreements between civilian and military courts on who has jurisdiction over two important cases.

The first, reported a few days ago, involves Rung Sila or Sirapop (family withheld), accused of lese majeste. Rung Sila is the pen-name of a poet and cyber activist.

Rung Sila and his lawyer submitted a request to the criminal court under Article 10 of the 1999 Court Jurisdiction Act for a ruling on whether he should be tried by a civilian rather than a military court. On 22 September 2015, the Criminal Court ruled that it had jurisdiction over the case. The military court had earlier ruled that it had jurisdiction of the case. A Court Jurisdiction Committee must make the final decision.

Going to the criminal court rather than the military court is important for Rung Sila. As he refuses to plead guilty, being tried by the criminal court allows appeals, right up to the Supreme Court. Any verdict in the military court is final.

The second case involves of Chaturon Chaisang, a former Puea Thai Party Education Minister, charged with defying the military junta’s orders as well as “sedition, and breaking Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Code, importing illegal information into the computer.”

As in the first case, the criminal court has claimed jurisdiction over the case when the military court has earlier claimed jurisdiction. Again, as “the two courts disagree, the Court Jurisdiction Committee formed by officials from both courts shall make a final decision whether which court should be handling the case in accordance to Article 10 of the 1999 Court Jurisdiction Act.”

PPT is not sure of the broader significance of these disagreements. Perhaps the judiciary is objecting to its subordination to the military. For the defendants, what is important is that while all courts in Thailand are politicized, military courts are tools of the junta.