On 28 Feb, Surachai Danwatthananusorn, leader of the Red Siam group, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for lèse majesté on three counts, but the jail term was commuted by half due to his guilty plea.
Surachai and wife walking to court room to hear verdict
Surachai, 69, was prosecuted for three separate public speeches he made in 2010 at the red-shirt headquarters at Imperial Lad Phrao in Bangkok, and at rallies in Doi Saket District in Chiang Mai and at Udon Thani, had asked the court to combine all cases and pleaded guilty.
According to the court verdict, the defendant, even though 68 years old when committing the crimes, had had a political role for a long time, had a bachelor’s degree from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, was a former member of the Nakhon Sri Thammarat Provincial Administrative Organization, and was considered a mature person.
Given that when the offences were made society was inflicted with serious ideological conflicts, what the defendant said exacerbated the conflicts, and defamed the monarchy, the court said.
The court gave him a five-year jail term in each case, and reduced them by half as he had confessed.
As he had been convicted and imprisoned before, but was incorrigible, it was not appropriate to suspend sentence, the court said.
Judges reading the verdict were led by Chanathip Muanpawong who late last year convicted Amphon Tangnopphakul to 20 years in prison and Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul to 15 years in her second adjuducation.
‘I have 40 years of political experience. Given the situation in the country, how could I not speak? And I avoided it as much as I could. These many cases resulted from speeches that I avoided as much as I could. What could I do?” Surachai said, adding that the sentence today was considered merciful by the court.
Karom Polpornklang, Surachai’s lawyer, said that if the public prosecutor did not appeal, these three cases would be finished. However, a case is still being investigated by Wang Thong Lang police and if prosecuted, Surachai would plead guilty. Surachai has decided to fight another case handled by Chana Songkhram police as he believes that his speech was misinterpreted and exaggerated, and court hearings are scheduled for 5-8, and 12-15 June 2012.
Surachai was arrested on 22 Feb 2011 and has been detained without bail at Bangkok Remand Prison ever since.
According to his wife Pranee, he has health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes, blockage of blood vessels in the heart and inflammation of the prostate, so he wants to confess in order to seek a royal pardon.