Court hearing on Somyot’s case continues
On 18 April, lèse majesté case of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk continued at the Criminal Court in Bangkok with the testimonies of prosecution witnesses including military officers and university students.
Col Wijan Jodtaeng, Director of the Law and Human Rights Department of the Internal Security Operations Command, testified that during the time that the Emergency Decree was in force in 2010, the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) was the main body which dealt with lèse majesté offences. Security agencies collected evidence and sent this case to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI). The DSI accepted it as a special case, and sent it back to the CRES which then assigned him to file a police complaint.
Asked by the defence lawyer whether the prosecution against Somyot involved CRES spokesperson Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd and followed the CRES ‘diagram of the plot against the Monarchy’, he said that the team working on this case consisted of over 30 officers from several agencies, including, for example, the DSI and the Council of State, and Col Sansern was part of the team, if he remembered correctly. However, he was not involved in the CRES announcement of the diagram, and was not consulted about it.
Asked whether there had been any case which was considered by the security authorities, but was dropped, he said no.
When asked about HM the King’s address on 4 Dec 2005 which said that the King could be criticized, he said that he had no comment.
Col Wijan later told reporters that he did not know why, when it had accepted the case, the DSI did not go on with the legal proceedings, but instead sent it back to the CRES. He had never read the two articles in Somyot’s magazine when he was assigned by the CRES to file a complaint.
The case was submitted to the DSI on 29 April 2010, and was accepted as a special case in May 2010. He was assigned to make the complaint on 30 Aug 2010, and gave testimony to the DSI on 3 Sept 2010, he said.
Col Nuchit Sribunsong from the Army’s Directorate of Operations told the court that since 2006 the security situation had apparently grown intense, and security agencies had monitored lèse majesté content in the media, on the internet, and in political public speeches. Three magazines which were particularly monitored included Thai Red News, Voice of Taksin and Truth Today. Information would be collected and analyzed jointly by the National Security Council, ISOC, the Police Special Branch, the National Intelligence Agency, the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, etc., and the information and opinions would be submitted to the CRES for consideration.
He admitted that the CRES diagram was used as a tool in their planning and analysis.
When asked by the defence lawyer whether he was aware that the case concerning the CRES diagram had already been dropped by the DSI, he said that he was not.
Asked whether he knew who wrote the articles in the Voice of Taksin magazine, using the pen name ‘Jitr Pollachan’, he said that he did not know, but insisted that the articles constituted lèse majesté as they mentioned incidents which happened in the early years of the Chakri Dynasty and the death of King Taksin. Although without naming names, he understood what they meant.
He said that, however, it was up to the CRES, which was chaired by Suthep Thaugsuban, then Deputy Prime Minister of the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, to decide whether the articles were offensive to the monarchy. He and the rest of the team just presented the CRES with information and a preliminary opinion.
The other two prosecution witnesses, 4th-year law students at Thammasat University who were interns at the DSI at the time, testified that during their internships they were assigned by their trainer, an investigator in this case, to read and give comments on the articles, and they commented that the articles were offensive.
The hearing was attended by about 20 people including Thida Thavornset, the Chairperson of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship.
According to the defence lawyer Suwit Homhuan, 13 persons are expected to appear in court as defence witnesses on 1-4 May, including National Human Rights Commissioner Dr Niran Phithakwatchara, Chulalongkorn lecturer Suthachai Yimprasert, Thammasat lecturer and Nitirat member Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Pheu Thai MP Sunai Chulapongsathorn, labour activist Jitra Kotchadet, journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk and Somyot himself.
In shackles and chains, Somyot was asked by reporters at the court about the fact that he was not considered by the Thai mass media to be a journalist. He responded that it was understandable because his case involved the issue of the monarchy, which was a taboo among the mainstream mass media under the unjust law and the climate of fear in society.
Asked to comment on the role of the Pheu Thai Party regarding the issue of prisoners of conscience, he said that it was obvious that the government lacked moral bravery.