Singaporean gets 15 years for lèse majesté

Wanchai (family name withheld), about 60, has received combined sentences of 15 years in jail for disseminating leaflets deemed offensive to the monarchy in 2009.

On 6 April 2009, the Singaporean, who has lived in Thailand for over 30 years and speaks fluent Thai, was arrested near Government House during a protest rally of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship.  He was distributing 6-page leaflets which strongly criticized Thai politics after the 2006 coup.

Spurred by the seizure of Suvarnabhumi Airport by the People’s Alliance for Democracy in late 2008, he wrote a document out of rage as he had worked as a tourist guide throughout his stay in the country.  The original version contained over 50 pages.  He later edited it into leaflets after he found that no one was willing to read the lengthy piece.  He distributed the leaflets at more than 10 schools and universities.

He lived for 15 years with his Thai wife, a clothes seller, but has no children.  He was interested in politics and particularly history as he was a guide. Later he read political history books, and he claimed that he had read numerous history books and had great respect for King Taksin.

According to what he told close friends, he was not affiliated to any political group, and he had been to just a few UDD rallies.  On the day of his arrest, he wanted to go to Thammasat University to distribute his leaflets, but as it was closed for a holiday he went to the UDD rally instead.  There he was seized by the UDD guards who took him to the police.

He felt sad and also angry with the UDD.  He insisted that although he used strong language in the leaflets, he was rational.

He insisted on this in court, but the court did not allow him to elaborate.  His trial was held in secret; even his wife had to stay outside.  He was denied bail until the court handed down its verdict on 26 Feb 2010.

According to the prosecution, the defendant ‘insulted, defamed and threatened’ the King by distributing a document which started with the King’s speech ‘I shall reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people’ and contained offensive comments with the intention of making the public lose faith and respect for the King.

The court found him guilty under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, saying that his act constituted a severe offence against the King as Head of State who has long been held in the highest respect by all the people, and also seriously affected the feelings of the Thai people.

The court said that the defendant deserved severe punishment, and gave him a jail term of 15 years.  However, as he had confessed during the investigation and his testimony was considered somewhat beneficial to court proceedings, the jail term was reduced by one-third to 10 years.

About a week later, on 5 March 2010, the public prosecutor brought yet another case against him, this time for distributing the same leaflets at Kasetsart University Demonstration School on 16 Feb 2009. 

On 28 Feb 2011, he was given a 10-year prison sentence, which was reduced to 5 years because he had pleaded guilty.

Before the court ruling, perhaps as a result of the mounting pressures of the court cases and the living conditions in prison where he said he could hardly eat and sleep, he expressed his anger and strong criticism while in court, and was then sent to the Galyarajanagarindra Institute, a psychiatric treatment centre, and stayed there for nearly two months.

Currently Wanchai is imprisoned in Zone 4 of Bangkok Remand Prison.  His wife used to visit him regularly but has recently become silent, and Wanchai has no idea what has happened.

In a separate case, 40-year-old software developer Suraphak was arrested by Technology Crime Suppression Division police on 1 Sept 2011.  He was accused of being the owner of a Facebook page entitled ‘I shall reign with … [censored]’ which allegedly contained messages offensive to the monarchy.  He denied all charges.

According to Suraphak, when the police searched and seized his two desktop computers and one laptop, he wanted to contact friends and lawyers to be witnesses, but the police refused and seized his mobile phone.  Not until he was taken to the TCSD office for interrogation that he met any lawyer.

The police did not produce any evidence to substantiate the allegations, and only told him that a student had filed a complaint about the Facebook page and a witness had identified him as the culprit, he said.

He had opened his own company less than a month before his arrest to develop software for two clients.  The work was worth about 6 million baht and was 40% complete when he was arrested.

His 4th 12-day remand period will expire on 20 Oct, and his family is expected to seek bail again after all previous requests were denied when police sought to extend his remand.

Timetable of lèse majesté cases

17 Oct 2011

Daranee Charncherngsilpakul Hearing on Constitutional Court ruling on whether trial in secret was constitutional
9 Nov 2011 Joe Gordon Verdict
23 Nov 2011 Amphon Tangnoppakul Verdict
6 Dec 2011 Sqn Ldr Chanin Klaiklueng (Military Court) Hearing of prosecution witness
14-16 Feb 2012 Chiranuch Premchaiporn Hearings of defence witnesses
17-20 July 2012 Akechai Hongkangwan (seller of ABC documentary CDs) Hearings of prosecution and defence witnesses
21 Nov 2011–4 May 2012 Somyot Phrueksakasemsuk Hearings of prosecution and defence witnesses
  21 Nov 11 Hearings of prosecution witnesses (Sa Kaew province)
  19 Dec 11 Hearings of prosecution witnesses (Phetchabun province)
  16 Jan 12 Hearings of prosecution witnesses (Nakhon Sawan province)
  13 Feb 12 Hearings of prosecution witnesses (Songkhla province)
  18-20, 24-26 April 12 Hearings of prosecution witnesses (Bangkok)
  1-4 May 12 Hearings of prosecution witnesses (Bangkok)
5-8, 12-15 Jun 2012 Surachai Danwattananusorn Hearings of prosecution and defence witnesses

All hearings will take place at the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Rd at 9.00 am, except where stated otherwise.

Surachai Danwattananusorn faces multiple charges, details below:

Charge Authority Detail Court hearing Offence
Article 112 Chanasongkram Police Station Bail granted but withdrawn after other arrests 2012 Public speech at Sanam Luang
Article 112 Chokechai Police Station Arrested on 22 Feb 2011   Public speech at Imperial Lad Prao
Article 112 DSI (transferred from Doi Saked Police Station, Chiang Mai)   First hearing on 31 Oct 2011 at 9 am Public speech in Chiang Mai
Article 112 DSI (transferred from Wang Thong Lang Police Station)  Charged by police, interrogated in prison   Public speech
Instigating unrest Ratchaburi Police Station  Complaint lodged   Public speech
Article 112 Chiang Rai Police Station  Confirmed by DSI    
Article 112 Udon Thani Police Station  Confirmed by DSI    




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