Framing lese majeste prisoners

30 08 2015

The Bangkok Post has published an excellent article assessing the case of Surapak Puchaisaeng, accused of lese majeste in 2011, and kept in jail  for many months, without bail.

He battled for four years to eventually prove his innocence, having the charges dismissed. With a degree in law and working as an IT specialist, Surapak was able to understand and challenge the technical “evidence” against him, which was shown to have probably been fabricated. PPT’s suspicion is that police may have been involved in some of the fabrication of evidence.Surapak

With so many lese majeste cases being brought against social media users, and with almost all of them being “convinced” that pleading guilty is likely to reduce jail time, his case is an example of the kinds of lengths lese majeste vigilantes and police are willing to go in order to throw political opponents in prison.

Several others have claimed they were framed, including Joe Gordon.

Remarkably, the story claims that this is the “first time in history a lese majeste defendant had ever made it to Thailand’s Supreme Court and won.”

Equally remarkable is the line in the story that Surapak “… has yet to receive compensation for the 13 months spent on remand, calculated at 200 baht per day.” PPT doubts any of the crooked cops will ever be held accountable.

Lese majeste acquittal confirmed

13 08 2015

Surapak Puchaisaeng was a computer programmer when he was arrested on lese majeste and Computer-related Crime Act charges on 1 September 2011. He was aged 40 at the time. Police arrested him for allegedly insulting the king on a Facebook page.

Our very long post on his case is important for Surapak is one of the very few we know of who has managed to be acquitted on these charges.

Without repeating the details of the case, on 13 August 2015, the Supreme Court affirmed the “decisions of the Court of First Instance and the Appeal Court, to acquit Surapak … on charges of creating a lèse majesté Facebook page, parodying the oath of succession of the monarch.”

The courts all took the view that the evidence was weak. In fact, it seems highly likely that the authorities tampered with the “evidence.”

Surapak was kept in jail for more than one year and should be compensated. There should be an investigation into the tampering with the evidence.

“Good” news on one lese majeste case

26 03 2014

There isn’t much really good news in the warped world of lese majeste. Police and prosecutors are spineless, courts are bizarre and often ignore law, and governments are conspiratorial in their implementation of this feudal and political law.

Yet, the recent verdict by the Appeals Court rejecting an appeal against the dismissal of a case against Surapak Puchaisaeng, seems about as good as the news can get.

We guess that the appeal was lodged by prosecutors, stunned by the first dismissal. They had a right to be stunned as almost all prosecuted cases result in convictions. However, the court determined that the prosecution’s “evidence was not strong enough.”

They might have said that some of it appeared fabricated by police and others. The first decision made this clear: “The Court of First Instance ruled in October 2012 that the trace of the [alleged offending] dorkao email in the computer was created after the computer was confiscated.”


Anti-112 allies

4 12 2012

In this short post, PPT wants t draw attention to the Red Shirts blog and its post on “Thailand’s lèse majesté prisoners in and out of jail, …[and] the incredible group of friends and family members who support them.” In an excellent post, a couple of things stuck us.112.jpg

First, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk is quoted as declaring that his incarceration and trial is “about human rights. Not just my human rights, but those of all Thai citizens.” He’s absolutely right.

Second, it mentions “single-dad, Tanthawut [Taweewarodomkul who] hopes that he will receive a Royal pardon that would allow him to get back to his family soon.” He’s been in jail since March 2010, and after withdrawing his appeal against his politicized conviction, has been awaiting a pardon since August.

Third, the report mentions the continuing problems that lese majeste victims face following their release. It cites Joe Gordon, who left Thailand following his release, saying “I am sad to leave Thailand, but I don’t feel safe here. The lèse-majesté law … breeds resentment.” He’s now safe in the United States. Attending Joe’s departure party were former lese majeste inmates  Nat Sattayapornpisut and the recently acquitted Surapak Puchaisaeng who “were there, along with many of the people who had supported them through prison.”

Letters from Sukunya Prueksakasemsuk II

4 11 2012

In an earlier post, PPT drew attention to the first letter from Sukunya Prueksakasemsuk to her husband, the imprisoned lese majeste political prisoner Somyos. Somyos has been jailed for more than 18 months as he awaits a verdict on this political charge.

The second letter has been released (in ไทย) and begins with comments about visiting “hours” – actually just a few minutes – at the Bangkok Remand Prison and ends with the delight at Surapak Puchaisaeng‘s acquittal on lese majeste and computer crimes charges. The English version follows:

3 Nov 2012

Week 73 of the prolonged detention.

Dear P’Yot,

There are many things happened in this week after I visited you at the prison last Tuesday. Fist of all, I must say that no one visited the 112 prisoners except Jane and me on that day. So I had a good chance to talk to you, Pee Surachai and Noom all together in one. It seemed that the 20 minutes flied so fast and we talked over time limit until the officer warned us to separate and asked you to go back inside. A period of 20 minutes is very short and always not enough to be with the one that I love and wait for the whole week.

The prison allows us to meet once a day from 11.10 to 11.30 at weekdays only. As I am busy and don’t have lot of free time, I could only meet you once a week. I have to spend that little time that they allow as good and most valuable as I can. One thing that I have seen and am happy is that you still maintain your courage and strength. You don’t lose heart and have a good spirit even it has been a very long time since you have been detained. Your faith remains unchanged. So I hope someday your dream will come true.

From my conversation with Pee Surachai which was the first time that I talked to him in an official manner. Before that I only had some greetings and small talks with him. He told me that the Thai people must have a clear picture of democracy. Supporting a political party must be based on a clear understanding of the rights to have the different opinions and the roles and responsibilities of ourselves. When the party became the government and ruler, they might not do things that they promised but we as the citizen must not lose the sight & sense of equality and democracy. We will have to push them to complete actions as promised.

For Noom, we have talked and lent mental support to each other. Noom said that if he is released, he will dedicate to our 112 Family Network which I am very glad to hear that he has realised the importance of our Network and intended to share his painful experience and opinion on the impact of the article 112. Many people still think that this law is not relevant to them at all which is not correct. Anyone can be sued from the article 112.  I hope to hear a good news about Noom from his recent seeking for royal pardon.

Finally the great news for this week is the acquit of Surapak (Tum)’s trial on Wednesday this week. I am very happy for Tum, Pa Tam and his family to have him back home. I wish that when it come to your verdict, we will receive a fair trial and end the long process with full of justice.

Love you as always,


Updated: FACT on continuing censorship

3 11 2012

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand hasn’t posted since July, but is back with a long post on continuing internet censorship in Thailand. FACT claims that the Royal Thai Government now blocks more than 1,000,000 URLs.

In January 2004, during the Thaksin Shinawatra administration, it was announced that 1,247 URLs were blocked. Following the 2006 military coup, “the military’s fifth official order on its first day in power was to block the Internet. Under the coup regime, tens of thousands of webpages were blocked.” In 2007, FACT says that Thailand became the first country to block YouTube and in the same year introduced the notoriously politicized Computer Crimes Act. Much of this censorship was related to anti-monarchy sites and postings.

FACT claims that, today, the “Thai government censorship was rising at a rate of 690 new pages blocked every single day.” It adds: “Thailand’s censorship has shown no signs of abating and almost none of the webpages blocked during the [Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s] ‘emergency’ have been unblocked [under the Yingluck Shinawatra regime]. In 2012, more than 90,000 Facebook pages were blocked.”

Update: In a related comment, Reporters Without Borders has commented on the lese majeste acquittal of  Surapak Puchaisaeng. In doing so, RWB notes: “Thailand is ranked 137th of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders and is among countries under surveillance in the list of Internet enemies, updated by the organization in March last year.”

More on Surapak’s lese majeste acquittal

2 11 2012

As PPT posted earlier, Surapak Puchaisaeng was acquitted on lese majeste and Computer-related Crime Act 2007 charges last Wednesday. Prachatai now has two stories worth reading on the case.

The first is a translation of the court’s verdict. Amongst other things, this paragraph is stunning:

The court has to take into account the credibility of how the original data was preserved, because each start-up of the computer results in certain automatic changes and data can be easily altered or modified.  It appears that after the defendant was detained and his notebook computer was seized by the police, the computer was started up on 2 September 2011 at 20.13.44 hrs and on 7 September 2011 at 21.12.07 hrs, before the computer was sent to the forensic police officer for examination, and this could allow modifications of the data of the seized computer.  Therefore, the results of the examination of the computer are flawed and unreliable, and it cannot be clearly concluded that the data pertaining to the use of the email account and Facebook account ‘I shall reign by staging coups’ results from the use of the defendant’s notebook computer.

The evidence suggests that the police or others tried to frame Surapak.

The second story is an interview with Surapak’s lawyer, “Thitipong Srisaen, aka “Attorney Siang”. Experienced in intellectual property rights cases, Thitipong took this case, his first involving national security and a highly sensitive issue. He shares with us his experience in this landmark case.” He adds that: “In the past two years, I have handled many of the red-shirt cases; many of my clients are just grassroots villagers, not the core members, who have been prosecuted for violating the Emergency Decree.” He came to Surapak’s case as a red shirt lawyer supporting a fellow red shirt.

Thitipong notes one of the difficulties associated with lese majeste cases where the defendants are repeatedly denied bail:

It would have been much more convenient if Surapak had been temporarily released. The accused is a computer expert. But because he was held in custody, he could only explain to me through the iron bars and had no chance to demonstrate to me using a real computer. He simply told me the data (found in his laptop computer) had been fabricated. But at first I had no idea how it had been fabricated. Without a support team, I had to do the research myself. Experts were reluctant to give me any help.

Further, he criticizes the lese majeste law:

The crux of the matter is that it is too easy to report someone. It is so easy to initiate a lèse majesté case invoking Section 112. In the case against Surapak, someone reported to the police about an allegedly lèse majesté Facebook page. That person insisted that Surapak was the owner of the Facebook page and he was the “Mr. Manachai” whose name appeared on the Facebook page. The police simply pursued the case based on this claim and had never made any attempt to investigate further who the owner of the Facebook page really was.

And he explains that, from the very day of Surapak’s arrest, the police fabricated and concocted the case:

On the day they came to Surapak’s house, the officials had only a search warrant, no arrest warrant. They could not arrest him instantly since he had not committed any flagrant offence. But they asked Surapak to write down on a piece of paper the password of the Facebook page. Surapak did not understand, but he did write down the password of his computer. Then, the police took the piece of paper as evidence and submitted it to the Court to apply for an arrest warrant.

Finally, the personal impact on Surapak is mentioned, noting that he has been in jail for a long time and repeatedly refused bail, as well as “prejudged” by “society”:

Look at what Surapak suffered over the past one year in jail. Nothing can sufficiently compensate him. Nothing can heal the damage he suffers from his loss of time, career, etc.

Further updated: Surapak acquitted!

31 10 2012

There’s good news today. The Bangkok Post reports that Surapak Puchaisaeng, accused of lese majeste, has been acquitted by the court, “ruling that the prosecution had failed to prove its case.” Surapak joins a very small list – 5% of those charged – who are acquitted. The last person acquitted was yellow-shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul, but for very different and politicized reasons.

A Bangkok Post photo

Surapak stood accused of posting defamatory Facebook messages and was arrested in 1 September 2011 and denied bail since then.

The Criminal Court “was convinced that the HTML files were not cached when browsing Facebook but were pasted into Mr Surapak’s computer.” This suggests that the computer used as evidence was tampered with, probably by the police.

In our page on Surapak, we had noted that, while the newspaper accounts of the evidence were incomplete, there certainly appears to be little substantial evidence in this case. We added that we hoped Surapak would be one of those in the tiny 4-5% who get off lese majeste and computer crimes charges, but the recent behavior of the courts suggest that acquittal is unlikely. We hope we are wrong.  We were wrong, and we are overjoyed that this case has been trashed by the court.

The Post notes the frame-up: “Asked if he would file a counter lawsuit against the people who framed him, [Surapak] said he would think about it first.” No doubt a year in jail on false charges is a bitter pill.

His aged mother Taem Phuchasaeng, 68, said: “It is a pity that certain other lese majeste defendants were not in a position to defend themselves. I was quite sorry, in particular, about the death of Ah Kong [Ampol Tangnopakul].”

The Post also reports that “Panitan Prueksakaemsuk, the son of another lese majeste defendant, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, was among those who attended Wednesday’s court session. He said Mr Surapak’s victory might be a good example and comfort to other lese majeste defendants.” He added: “We just hope for a political solution for other lese majeste prisoners…”.

Update: It is worth viewing The Nation’s website for seemingly malicious reporting of this case. In its first account of the acquittal, The Nation states and headlines: “Red shirt leader acquitted” and adds: “The Criminal Court on Tuesday acquitted a red shirt leader in a lese majeste lawsuit, giving the benefit of the doubt to the defendant.” PPT has never before heard claims that Surapak is or was a red shirt leader. In the next story it has posted, by Pravit Rojanaphruk, the account appears more factual. We wonder what The Nation is up to?

Updated: Surapak’s lese majeste trial

22 09 2012

Reports in the Bangkok Post have continued the account of the lese majeste trial of Surapak Puchaisaeng. PPT’s earlier posts are here and here. The earlier report in the Bangkok Post is of the third day in court, which concluded the hearing of prosecution witnesses.

The gist of the day’s proceedings seems to be an accusation rather than evidence, with a police colonel from the Technology Crime Suppression Division stating that Surapak “admitted after his arrest and during an initial probe that he was the owner of the email address and Facebook page” that were said to be involved with lese majeste content. Readers might recall that in earlier accounts of Surapak’s arrest that he was quoted: “I denied all knowledge, but they tried to force me to sign a confession. I went to telephone a lawyer, but they took the mobile phone from me.” He was denied access to a lawyer for some time.

The policeman, presumably one of those involved in denying Surapak he legal and constitutional rights, stated that it was only when “the defendant learned that he could be charged under Section 112, the so-called lese majeste law, he pleaded not guilty…”.

The Bangkok Post‘s account of the fourth and final day of the trial refers to defense witnesses, including Surapak, with the court to make its ruling on 31 October 2012.

Surapak’s own evidence appears in line with that noted above. He denied “an association with the email and Facebook page alleged by the police as being used to display messages deemed insulting to the monarchy.” He stated that he was denied a lawyer and that the policeman cited above, “Pisit Paoin, deputy commander from the Technology Crime Suppression Division, told him to write down the suspected email address and Facebook page on a piece of paper…”, and had him sign it. He “denied the document proved his authorship of the email and ownership of the Facebook page. He also denied all charges.” In addition, Surapak pointed to the “temporary files which the police entered as evidence proving an association between the email and Facebook page and his two computers were not credible.” Finally, he “pointed to a Microsoft report entered as evidence by the prosecutor which showed an attempted link to his computer through Wifi on Sept 7, five days after he was arrested.”

On this technical matter, Surapak was supported by a “defence witness, Kittipong Piyawanno, a lecturer at the Royal Thai Navy Academy’s Engineering Department, [who] argued that police evidence supposedly showing log files of the suspected Facebook page appeared incomplete and irregular.” He stated that “if a Facebook use is to appear in the cache file, it must be in the form of PHP, not HTML as shown in the evidence. He said the source post provided by the police looked like it was created manually.” He added that “the police evidence also showed that the computer was activated twice while it was not in the possession of the defendant.”

Kittipong concluded that as “the computer forensic police did not appear to follow the appropriate protocol in its handling of the exhibit computers, the resulting evidence is not credible…“.

The implication is that this is a police fit up.

While the accounts of the evidence are incomplete in the newspaper reporting, there certainly appears to be little substantial evidence in this case. Surapak may well be one of those in the tiny 4-5% who get off lese majeste and computer crimes charges, but the recent behavior of the courts suggest that acquittal is unlikely. We hope we are wrong. At the very least, Surapak should be bailed immediately.

Update: At The Nation, the story on this case has an informative headline: I’ve been framed: Lese majeste man. The story also has more from Kittipong: “The reliability [of the claimed evidence] is almost nil…”. Kittipong went on to say that “if an innocent person were sentenced under the lese majeste law or the Computer Crimes Act, not only would the person develop a negative impression about the monarchy, but the monarchy would be negatively affected as well.” And, to finish, he is said to have “criticised the activities of the so-called cyber-scouts and ultra-royalists, saying that going on a witch-hunt was not the right way of expressing love for the monarch.”

Surapak’s trial, anti-112 protest and injustice

20 09 2012

PPT thinks that the protesters who showed up at the Criminal Court on Wednesday to protest the further (deliberate) dragging out of the sentencing of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk on lese majeste charges deserve considerable praise.

These brave souls opposed to the lese majeste law and to the judicial system’s disgusting endeavors to punish Somyos as guilty from the very moment he was arrested on 30 April 2011. Since that arrest he has been refused bail nearly a dozen times, been dragged around the country in chains and cages, and had his trial delayed several times. They are opposing a justice system that operates unconstitutionally and illegally.

The Nation reports that 20 “opponents of the lese majeste law held a 112-minute vigil” at the court. They “wore black eye masks reading ‘release political prisoners’, while one placard read ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.”

The timing of the event coincided with the second day of the lese majeste trial of  Surapak Phuchaisaeng, “the first such prisoner to be prosecuted and tried under the Yingluck Shinawatra administration.”

Surapak is reported as telling The Nation that:

it is “disgusting” that he has to wear shackles and prisoners’ garb even though no concrete evidence has been produced linking him to the Facebook page, which is still active even though he is in prison. His bail request has been denied about half a dozen times now.

“Think about it. This is Thailand! The justice process never protects the people, only the elite,” Surapak said as prosecution witness Pol Major Niti Inthurak, an officer at the Computer Crimes unit, told the court that it was not the police force’s job to trace the suspect’s IP address.

Surapak …  said he had lost lots of job opportunities while in prison, adding that prosecutors would never be able to prove that he was linked to the Facebook account.

It sounds remarkably like another lese majeste stitch-up is under way. Not only is there no protection in this corrupt judicial system, but the courts are active in perverting the course of justice.

And as if to prove this point, The Nation also reports that People’s Alliance for Democracy leader Sondhi Limthongkul, convicted of libel against Thaksin Shinawatra lawyer Noppadon Pattama, went to the Court of Appeals and had his sentence reduced. Why did the politicized court do this? Apparently, due to “Sondhi’s old age and altruism as grounds for leniency, saying he did not seek self-serving gain by defaming legal adviser.” Of course, Sondhi was immediately granted bail of a paltry 100,000 baht to allow yet another appeal.

“Old age”? Sondhi is 64. PPT doesn’t recall any leniency for 62 year-old lese majeste convict Ampol Tangnopakul, not even when he was ill. Has there been any consideration of old age in the case of lese majeste convict Surachai Danwattananusorn, now 70 years old? Of course not. How about “altruism”? Most definitions suggest that “altruism is a motivation to provide something of value to a party who must be anyone but oneself…”. A quick read of his Wikipedia page, discussing Sondhi’s self-interested political and business flip-flops suggests anything but altruism as one of his motivations.

But he was attacking a political opponent aligned with Thaksin, so the royalist courts are simply and blatantly biased. The court appears to celebrate its double standards.

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