A Thai court has ordered the trial on a lèse majesté case involving a book about the mysterious death of King Rama VIII to be held in camera. The defendant, which only sold the book, faces maximum jail term of 15 years.
The South Bangkok Criminal Court on Tuesday Feb. 11 approved a request from the Public Prosecutor to hold in camera the trial of a 65-year-old man charged with Article 112 or lèse majesté law for selling a banned book on the death of the King Rama VIII. The old man faces maximum jail term of 15 years.
The book, entitled “The Devil’s Discus”, was written by Rayne Kruger and investigates the mysterious death of King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII), who reigned between 1935 and 1946. The book was first published in 1964.
Covers of the Devil's Discus in English and the in Thai. Photo Courtesy of New Mandala and FACTHAI
It was translated into Thai by Chalit Chaisithiwet and a Thai version was published in 1974. According to Wikipedia, as soon as the book was published, it was banned in Thailand and Kruger was also banned from further entry to Thailand.
The defendant U. (name withheld due to privacy concern) is a book seller who normally had a temporary book stall at events and street markets. He was arrested when selling books at a People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) gathering at Lumpini Park on May 2, 2006.
The police arrested him and confiscated a copy of the book and also a copy of Same Sky journal, “Monarchy and Thai society” issue Oct. - Dec. 2005 (the Coca Cola issue).
The two works were banned under the now-abolished Printing Act.
The Public Prosecutor, however, only pressed charges for selling The Devil’s Discus.
According to the accusation, there are six sections in the book which constitute lèse majesté. The six sections are the author’s presentation of “theories” about the cause of the king’s death which involve the current king. The author concluded that the former king was likely to have committed suicide because his relationship with a foreign woman was unacceptable.
The white sign in front of the courtroom during the trial of the banned book case on Feb. 11. The sign says "Secret Trial. No Entry"
Thongthong Chandrangsu, an expert on monarchical ceremonies and Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office, testified on Thursday Feb. 13. He is a regular prosecution witness at lèse majesté trials where he is frequently asked to give his opinion as to whether a text is considered lèse majesté.
According to the defendant's attorney, who asked not to be named because of privacy concerns, Thongthong said he did not finish the book, but of the six selected sections which involve the current king, all are considered to be lèse majesté. He added that although the book says the assumptions in the six sections are likely to be impossible and comes to a different conclusion, it does not disprove those assumptions involving the current king. Someone reading the book may possibly believe in one of the theories [involving the current king].
Prior to Thongthong’s testimony, the judges asked the defendant’s attorney to accept the prosecution witness’s opinion on whether the texts constitute lèse majesté or not. The attorney did not comply with the judges’ request, saying that to determine whether a book constitutes lèse majesté or not, one needs to read the whole book, not a selected part. Moreover, the six texts are mere speculation by the author.
The first defence witness will testify on March 25. Sulak Sivaraksa, a renown royalist and Aritcle 112 critic, is one of the defence witnesses, the lawyer said.
An international human rights body submitted a letter to the court to observe the secret trial, but the court did not approve the request, according to a source.
A correction on the maximum jail term was made at 4.30pm, Feb, 15, 2014.