Thai police last week arrested six people who were allegedly part of a criminal organization defaming the monarchy on the internet. The group is allegedly led by a self-exiled red-shirt named “Banpodj,” with support of a financier.
The police said the group, set up in 2011, was divided into three levels. The commander, Banpodj, was responsible for producing content discrediting the military junta and the monarchy. The operative level was responsible for distributing the lèse majesté content on social media, such as Facebook, blogs, and YouTube, and the support level sought financial support and sold products, such as supplements, to support the group’s activity.
A Banpodj Network map, presented by the police at the press briefing on Monday, says the network was supported by an unnamed top commander who was also the group’s financier.
“DJ Banpodj” is known among red shirts for political podcast radio programmes which criticized the establishment.
Banpodj seems to be a big target for the Thai junta. In June, Chaleaw J., a 50-year-old tailor, was summoned by the military as they suspected that he was Banpodj. During detention, the authorities accused him of being Banpodj, but Chaleaw only confessed to uploading clips and insisted that he was not Banpodj. The authorities then interrogated him three times and also interrogated him using a lie detector, while most of the other detainees were interrogated only once. The Criminal Court found him guilty on charges under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lèse majesté law, and Article 14 of the Computer-related Crime Act (for importing illegal content into a computer system). Since the defendant pleaded guilty, the sentence was halved and suspended for two years.
The police presents Banpodj Network map during press breifing on the arrests of the six on Monday (Photo courtesy of Kapook.com)
The police accused the six of being behind the Banpodj Thailand Clips Facebook page, which the police identified as one of the top anti-establishment political pages distributing content defaming the King.
Two female suspects and four male suspects, Damrong S., Siwaporn P., Ngernkoon U., Paisit J., Anchan P., and Tara W., appeared before the military court on Monday. Only Damrong confessed to the police, while others denied all allegations and wanted to fight the case.
The circumstances of the arrests of the six are:
Tara W., 57, was accused of being the owner of okthai.com and several other allegedly lèse majesté websites. The police also accused him of cheating others to buy the network’s products. Tara was arrested on 25 January at around 1 pm by about 10 military officers after the military officers, disguised as customers, agreed with him to buy and receive the products. Tara surrendered without resistance. He confessed during interrogation. Due to poverty, Tara cannot afford to hire a lawyer and no relatives visited him on Monday.
Anchan P. 58, is a civil servant in the Revenue Department in Bangkok. She was accused of being the owner of ‘Patch PrachPrakary’ Facebook account and was responsible for the network’s finances. The police said Anchan sold products to support the network. Anchan told Prachatai that she suffered from hypertension and diabetes and has to take medication regularly.
Damrong S., 65, was accused of owning the Facebook account ‘Dam Samray’ and of being the administrator of the Banpodj Thailand Clips Facebook page. He and his wife were arrested at his home on January 25. His wife has been released. Damrong confessed to the police.
Siwaporn P., 41, was accused of being the owner of Facebook account ‘Siwaporn P.’ which distributed several items and images defaming the King and had connections with anti-monarchy people, one of whom is Pongsak S. Pongsak was accused of owning the Facebook account ‘Sam Parr’ and was arrested in December 2014. The arrest of Pongsak led to the arrest of Jamroen S. Military officers reportedly entrapped Pongsak with a Facebook profile of a good-looking person. It led to Pongsak revealing his location and the arrest.
Ngerngkoon U., 43, was accused of owning the ‘Ngernkoon Shinawatra’ Facebook account and of selling supplement products and other goods on Facebook to support the group financially. He was arrested on 29 January.
Paisit J., 46, was accused of being the owner of the ‘Pradit Suksombul’ Facebook account. The police identified him as a key man in the network, distributing content deemed lèse majesté. He was arrested on 28 January at his house. The military also captured and detained his younger brother. His brother has been released. Paisit has lost the sight in one eye and suffers from glaucoma on the other eye.
Tara, Anchan and Damrong were arrested on 25 January. Ngerngkoon, Paisit and Siwaporn were arrested on following days. They told Prachatai that they believed they were detained and interrogated at the 11th Infantry Regiment, Bangkok. They were later interrogated by Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) officers. After arrest warrants were issued by the court on 30 January, they were handed over to the police at Thung Song Hong Police Station. On Monday 2 February, the police took them to the military court, which approved the first custody petition. The two female suspects are detained at the Women’s Correctional Centre, Bangkok, and the four male suspects are detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison.
The six told Prachatai that they were not tortured or beaten during interrogation. However, most of them were blindfolded while being transported into military detention where they faced solitary confinement. Some said they were detained in a room with no windows so that they could not know if it was day or night.
Like other detainees under this military junta, they were forced to give up the passwords to their Facebook and email accounts. The Facebook accounts of most suspects are still online on Facebook. Their electronic devices were confiscated. Their lawyers told Prachatai that they have not seen the official documents regarding the confiscated electronic devices.
Meanwhile, T-News, an ultra-royalist news agency groundlessly accused a retired pro-Phue Thai Party academic, based in Chiang Mai for being Banpodj.
Note: Prachatai thanked iLaw and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) for providing some of the information above.