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.
Tiwagorn Withiton, with his 'lost faith' shirt on.
The local news agency the Isaander reported that in the ruling given on 29 September, the Court found that the evidence did not prove that the defendant intended to defame or express hostility to the monarch.
After the ruling, Tiwagorn said “I’m also surprised because I really thought I would get it. This is beyond my expectation. Is this mercy?”
The charge against Tiwagorn stemmed from his T-shirt with the words “I have lost faith in the monarchy” and his Facebook posts about it. His first appearance in the shirt was on 16 June 2020 when he put it on to go to the market and the farm.
He said no one said anything to him about the shirt. The story went viral when he posted a photo on Facebook of himself wearing the shirt with the caption “Losing faith doesn’t mean overthrowing the monarchy. Losing faith is a feeling inside the heart toward something, like losing love, losing connection, losing affection, losing trust,”
Section 112 of the Criminal Code criminalises individuals who defame or express hostility to the King, the Queen, the Heir Apparent or the Regent. It carries a 3-15 year jail sentence.
On 19 June 2020, officers from the Internal Security Operations Command, the political arm of the military, went to his house to convince him to stop wearing the shirt. He was later charged under Sections 112 and 116 of the Criminal Code for royal defamation and sedition, and also for a violation of the Computer Crime Act.
On 9 July 2020, he was forcibly taken from his house to Khon Kaen Rajanagarindra Psychiatric Hospital. He was given an injection in both arms as he was being taken to hospital. Tiwagorn’s mother said that after he was taken away in an ambulance, police officers searched the house and seized his computer, smartphone and the T-shirt. They also made his mother sign a document, the content of which is unknown.
He was discharged on 22 July 2020 after a public campaign calling for his release.
His fate and the phrase ‘lost faith’ resonated during the surge of protests calling for political and monarchy reform at that time.