Somsak charged for articles about Princess interview

Somsak Jeamteerasakul reported to the police with many supporters and reporters present at the police station. He denied the lèse majesté charge and said that he will fight the case.  An air force officer who faces a similar charge was also there to give him moral support.

On 11 May, the Thammasat history professor went to Nang Lerng Police Station to acknowledge the charge filed by the Royal Thai Army.  Sawatree Suksri and Piyabutr Sangkanokkul, Thammasat law lecturers and members of the Nitirassadorn group, were his witnesses during police interrogation. About 50-60 people, including red shirts, and Thai and foreign reporters, were at the police station.

His supporters raised banners, sang songs and shouted ‘No Lèse Majesté Law’.

At about 11 am, after the police interrogation, Somsak told reporters that the charges had been filed by the Royal Thai Army for two articles which he had written in response to Princess Chulabhorn’s interview and had been published on several websites in late March and April this year.

He said that he had denied the charge, and would fight the case and submit his formal testimony in writing to the investigators within two weeks. 

At this stage, he was not required to seek bail.

He said that he was ‘quite confident’ in fighting the case, as Article 112 of the Criminal Code, dealing with lèse majesté, did not apply to his articles.  The law protects only the King, Queen, Heir-apparent, and Regent.

Asked what he thought about the fact that it was the army, not a member of the public, who had filed the complaints, he said that it should be noted that the army had the duty to protect the country according to government policy, and it should be asked whether it had the duty to file such complaints.

Asked if he would reduce his role in making public comments about the monarchy, he said that such blanket allegations had gagged many people, but in his case he would have to think about it first. 

He was not sure whether he would receive a fair trial, given the recent extralegal shows of force by the military.

He urged the media to follow up on other cases, including Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Amphon Tangnoppakul and others, who had been denied bail, despite the fact that their cases were at the initial stage and bail was supposed to be a universal fundamental right.

As he left, his supporters gave him red roses, and told him, ‘Ajarn [teacher] is our representative and symbol to fight for democracy,’ and ‘We will stand by you’.  Somsak thanked them and asked them also to follow up on the other cases.

An air force officer who has also been charged with lèse majesté for posting comments on his Facebook page was also among the supporting crowd, and drew much attention from foreign reporters.

The squadron leader said that the military court had ordered his trial to be held in secret, with the first hearing scheduled for 14 July.  He has been suspended from service since 12 April, after being transferred to an inactive post for over 6 months.

In his view, Article 112 of the Criminal Code has been used as a political tool to suppress dissidents.

He said that he had criticized the government on his Facebook page.  Although for a soldier to criticize his superiors is considered a disciplinary offence, he had done so as a citizen, he said.

He was quite confident in fighting his case, as he had only posted things like ‘Fuel the Fire (ถั่งโถมโหมแรงไฟ)’, a revolutionary Thai song by Caravan from the 70s, against which the allegations were made.

Surachai Chantimathon, the song's writer, used to play this song on PAD stage.

He said that he had never before joined any political rallies.  He felt indifferent to the 2006 coup as he had been aware that it would happen.  What was intolerable and turned him against the government was the killing of people last year, because he is a democratic soldier, he said.