Chiang Rai military court continues to try lèse majesté suspect despite obvious mental disorder

The military court in Chiang Rai held the first hearing of a lèse majesté trial despite an obvious lack of intention on the part of the defendant who allegedly was out of his mind when committing the crime.

The military court of the northern province of Chiang Rai on Monday held the first witness hearing in the case against Samak P., a 48 year-old farmer accused of tearing up a picture of the King and the Queen and carrying a weapon (a knife) in public.

At the hearing, the military court had Police Senior Sergeant Major Jarachan Jansuk, who arrested Somsak, testify in the case.

The police officer testified that he and the village chief caught Somsak red-handed while he was tearing up a picture of the King and Queen and destroying a flower pedestal for the royal couple on 8 July at a village in Thong District of Chiang Rai. He said he smelled alcohol on Samak’s breath. The officer asked Samak to undergo a test for illicit drugs because the suspect seemed mentally abnormal, but he did not know that the defendant suffers from mental illness.

The next witness hearing is scheduled for 8:30 am on 10 February.  

Last month, during the deposition hearing, Somsak admitted that he tore up the picture of the King. Nonetheless, the defendant’s lawyer presented medical documents confirming that the defendant was insensible while he was committing the alleged crime and argued that the case should be dropped. Military prosecutor, however, objected and said since the defendant did not plead guilty as charged the trial must be held.   

Somsak has been diagnosed for several years with serious mental illness at Chiang Rai Hospital and has to take medication to deal with visual and auditory hallucinations.

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