Closed-door lèse majesté trial in Pattani

In a rare case in Thailand's deep south, Pattani Provincial Court is proceeding with an in camera lèse majesté trial against a Malayu Muslim man, who is accused of putting up banners about the country's conflict  with a picture of  Her Majesty the Queen in 2009.

The defendant, who asked not to reveal his name, was arrested without charge under special laws in late August 2009. He claimed that he was hit by army officers and was threatened to force a confession to charges he wasn't aware of. After he confessed, the military later informed him that he was being investigated on a lèse majesté charge. Later the defendant was able to get bail with a 300,000 baht guarantee. 
 
Some prosecution witnesses, such as forensic expert Dr. Pornthip Rojanasunand and former national police chief Priewpan Damapong, have already testified in the case, which began in December 2011. 
 
On August 12, 2009, national Mother’s Day and HM the Queen’s birthday, a number of similar banners were put up in public areas, especially pedestrian bridges, in Pattani Province. However, the defendant was only charged over two banners, according to iLaw, an NGO which maintains a database on human rights cases. 
 
Prior to his arrest, the military summoned the defendant to testify in a security case. He gave DNA evidence, and was released shortly after. 
 
According to the prosecutor, 109 witnesses will testify in the case. 
 
Upcoming hearings will take place on February 28, March 1 and March 6, 2013. 
 
The only previous in camera lèse majesté trial ever reported was that of Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul, or “Da Torpedo”, a red shirt activist who was sentenced to 15 years in 2009 for speeches made at protest rallies at Sanam Luang. The court gave national security as the reason for the closed-door.