Submitted on Mon, 2013-12-16 20:16
Thai police have charged an anti-establishment red-shirt supporter with lèse majesté for his coded speech at a red-shirt gathering at Rajamangala stadium on Ramkhamhaeng Road in late November.
A video clip of the speech was widely circulated on social media sites before it caught the attention of the law. A group of Internet users also disclosed his photo, home address and phone number as an act of political cyber bullying. They also found that he worked for a motor company and pressured the company via its Facebook page to punish him to show its “moral and social responsibility”.
Ekaphop, last name withheld due to privacy concerns, 22, made the speech on November 27, at a sideline red-shirt stage around the Rajamangala stadium where the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), the main faction of the red shirts, organized a gathering to show support for the government.
At one point in the speech, Ekaphop told a story of a family headed by “Uncle Somchai and Auntie Somjit” and the offspring of the couple. The speech attracted a loud acclaim and applause.
At the end of the story, Ekaphop spoke to the audience. “You guys feel a thrill of fear, but also like [the story]. But for me, I’d have to ask myself if I’ll be able to get through this. But I don’t care, because I didn’t refer to anybody. My speech isn’t illegal.” Apparently the police do not think so.
The fictional characters of Uncle Somchai and Auntie Somjit first appeared on the hard-core anti-establishment Same Sky web forum around 2010. The characters are known among people critical to the monarchy as code names used in a society where a speech can land a person in jail for several years or get them fired from their job because of political cyber bullying. The couple also feature in a song of Faiyen, an anti-establishment red-shirt pop band. The song is very popular among red shirts.
Article 112, the lèse majesté law, states that whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, Heir-apparent or Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.
Ekaphop is a core member of the progressive Red Siam group and a disciple of Surachai Sae Dan (Danwattananusorn), who was found guilty on five lèse majesté charges, but later released on a royal pardon. Ekaphop recently founded Gear of Red, which is a group of red-shirt vocational students and former vocational students.
Ekaphop is still at large. On Saturday, police summoned his parents for questioning.
Update: Name of the suspect corrected. Prachatai apologizes for the error.