Devil’s Discus book seller acquitted of defaming monarchy

The Criminal Court on Thursday acquitted a 65-year-old vendor of a charge of lèse majesté. He had been arrested for selling the banned book ‘Devil’s Discus’ at yellow shirt rallies in 2006.
The book, written by English-South African author Rayne Kruger and published in 1964, was declared illegal by the Thai authorities in 2006. The police deemed the book offensive to the monarchy since it dealt with the mysterious death of Thailand’s King Ananda Mahidol, (King Rama VIII) who reigned from 1935 to 1946.  
 
The defendant, who asked to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns, said in the closed-door trial that the book was consigned to him by another man. And since he had never read the book, he did not realize that the book contained lèse majesté material, he said. 
 
The judge said that even though the book concluded that King Rama VIII’s death committed suicide and did not involve the current King, the younger brother of King Rama VIII, it still unnecessarily mentioned King Bhumibol, which may cause misunderstanding among readers. 
 
“However, according to the police testimony, it did not appear that the defendant had recognized the lèse majesté texts in the case. Other prosecution witnesses also did not show that the defendant had realized these facts,” the judge said in reading the verdict. 
 
“The evidence brought by the prosecutor cannot be considered fully without doubt, so the court will give the benefit of the doubt to the defendant,” said the judge. 
 
Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code is one of the harshest lèse majesté laws in the world. It stipulates that "whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years." 
 
Critics of the law say it is abused as a political tool and severely limits freedom of expression. 
 
 
 
 

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