Appeal court reverses verdict, sentences Chiang Mai businessman to 5 years for lèse majesté

The Appeals Court on Tuesday reversed a not guilty verdict on a businessman from Chiang Mai Province and sentenced him to five years for defaming the monarchy. The Court of First Instance dismissed the case against him in 2013 due to lack of substantial evidence, according to iLaw, an Internet-based human rights advocacy group.

The Appeal Court read the verdict in camera, citing that the content was sensitive to national security. 
 
Assawin (last name withheld) was sued by Sakawdeun Chariyakornkul, who claimed to be the owner of a resort which she sold to the defendant. Assawin testified in court that he and Sakawdeun had a business conflict prior to the case and there were already several lawsuits between them on issues such as fraud and trespass.   
 
Sakawdeun, whom Assawin said refused to give him the land title deed of the resort and threatened him with sabotage and thugs, accused him in 2003 of defaming the Crown Prince and the King. She cited evidence alleging that Assawin claimed to be friends with HM King, and intended to develop a pond area in the resort to be a residence for the King. 
 
She also alleged that Assawin cited the King as saying that the resort area is beautiful and suitable as the King’s residence, and that Assawin asked her whether she would present the resort house as a gift to the King. 
 
Assawin denied the charges, saying that he had the utmost respect for the monarchy, while his relatives testified in court that their family, the Bunnag, had served the Chakri dynasty since the reigns of King Rama IV and V. 
 
Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code, or the lèse majesté law, 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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