Apart from repeatedly denying bail requests from lèse majesté suspects, the military court in Bangkok on Thursday ruled to try another lèse majesté case in camera despite the presence of UN officials. Meanwhile, lawyers are not allowed to copy trial reports to ‘maintain public morals’ and may be reprimanded for questions about civil rights and the credibility of the military courts.
Sirapop (last name withheld due to privacy concerns) was accused of composing and posting lèse majesté poems on his personal blog and Facebook under the pen name ‘Rung Sila.’ He is charged under Article 112 of the Criminal Code or the lèse majesté law and Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act (for importing illegal content into a computer system).
Thursday was scheduled for the deposition hearing. As officials from the United Nations and other human rights organizations turned up at the courtroom, the military prosecutor proposed to the court to conduct the trial in camera because the case involves material defaming HM the King.
Although Anon Nampa, the defence lawyer objected, the military court ruled to try the case behind closed doors, reasoning that a secret trial is needed for public morals. All observers then were asked to leave the courtroom.
During the deposition hearing, the defendant denied all allegations, according to Anon.
Sirapop also faces charges under martial law for not reporting after being summoned. He denied all allegations.
He was summoned by the NCPO to report but he did not comply. Sirapop was arrested on 25 June in northeastern Kalasin Province, while he was fleeing to a neighboring country. After being detained for seven days, he was accused of posting messages deemed lèse majesté on the Internet. He has been detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison since.
After the hearing on Thursday ended, the defence lawyer asked for a copy of the hearing report as usual, but the court did not allow this, reasoning that the case is serious and involves the important institution of the nation.
In a related development, the military court warned the defence lawyer to amend a petition within seven days because the petition contains ‘defamation against the junta and the military court’.
The petition questions the independence and credibility of the military court and also urges the military court to consult the Constitutional Court for a ruling on whether the following issues breach Article 4 of the 2014 Interim Charter:
- Order No. 37/2014 of the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) which transfers criminal offences against the monarchy and internal security to military courts;
- Article 61 of the Military Court Act which states that during the enactment of martial law, cases will be tried by only one court (with no right of appeal to the Appeal Court or Supreme Court)
Article 4 of the Interim Charter states that the freedom, rights and liberty of the Thai people must be respected and agreements with international agencies must be upheld.
Earlier in October, the Bangkok military court ruled to try the lèse majesté case against Kathawut B., a red-shirt radio host, in camera.