Thai Supreme Court on Monday found Bandid Aneeya guilty for his writing and a speech but sentenced him to suspended jail terms because he is suffering mental illness.
The Supreme Court confirmed the decision of the Court of the First Instance to sentence Bandit to four years in jail. However, given that Bandit has been suffering from mental illness since he was a young adult and is now very old and suffering from other physical illnesses, the court decided to suspend the jail term.
The Court of First Instance tried the case in camera, reasoning that it was sensitive to national security.
The Appeal Court in December 2010 sentenced Bandit to two years and eight months in jail without suspension, saying that the defendant was not mentally ill.
Bandid Aneeya is the penname of 72-year-old Jueseang Kwao. Of Chinese descent, Bandid, the name by which he is better known as a writer, has been treated at mental hospitals for several years.
Bandit Aneeya (right) appers at the Bangkok South Criminal Court on Monday morning without his signature long hair and beard as he anticipated the jail term. Peter Koret (left.) is a former literature at University of Berkeley and Arizona State University and Bandit's closed friend and bailsman. Bandit wears a T-shirt, showing support for Nitirat law academic group.
“I’m glad I don’t have to die in jail. I haven’t completely lost hope in this country. There is still justice even if it is bruised and battered,” said Bandit after learning his fate.
Before the court read the verdict, he told media and friends who came to give him moral support that he had prepared himself for life behind bars as he was certain that he would be jailed. “I’m ready. I took my bag. I knew they would put me in jail and I’d die in jail like Akong [Uncle SMS]
The two offences, a speech and a piece of writing, occurred at the same event in September 2013 when he participated in a seminar on laws related to political parties, held by the Election Commission and Constitutional Court. Bandit sold pamphlets of his writing at the seminar at 20 baht each and spoke during a seminar Q&A session. He was then charged with lèse majesté for his writing and speech.
The offences are criticisms of the King which touch on three main topics. The first concerns the picture of the King in courtrooms. The second is on royal power and the rule of law. Third relates to the King’s favourite dog which appears with the King while people prostrate themselves.
Bandid never testified in his own case because his attorney argued that Bandit is insane. However, Bandid has insisted that he is mentally sound.
“By saying that I’m insane in the court, it by default means that I did insult the monarchy. But in fact, I am not suffering from mental illness nor did I insult the monarchy,” Bandid wrote in an autobiography.
When he was an 18-year-old Buddhist novice in 1960, Bandit wrote a letter to then dictator Prime Minister Sarit Thanarat. He was then questioned by the police on suspicion of being a communist. He escaped the incident. In 1965, he camped in front of the Soviet Embassy in Bangkok and wrote “It is better to die in Moscow than to stay in Thailand.” He was then detained and sent to a mental hospital. He stayed in hospital for more than a month before being released because he harmed himself as way of refusing treatment.
In 1975, Bandid published a book entitled “Red Star,” which brought him a lèse majesté charge. However, when the police questioned him, they found that he was mentally ill and sent him to hospital. The charges were dropped due to his alleged insanity.