Court jails mentally ill old woman for stepping on image of the King

The Thai Appeal Court on Tuesday sentenced a 65-year-old woman with a mental illness to jail for a year without suspension for stepping on image of King Bhumibol.  

Thitinan K. was found guilty of treading on an image of HM the King when several groups of protesters gathered in front of the Constitutional Court office in July 2012. 

In May 2014, the Court of First Instance found Thitinan K. guilty of lèse majesté and sentenced her to two years in jail, but since the defendant pleaded guilty, the jail term was halved. As the defendant suffered from a mental illness, the jail term was suspended for three years. The court also required the defendant to report to the court every six months during the three years.

The Appeal Court agreed with the Court of First Instance, but decided not to suspend the jail term. It reasoned that the defendant’s claim of having a mental deficiency and being unaware when committing the crime was unsound. Since the crime is severe and the defendant was partly aware when committing the crime, the court decided not to suspend the jail term.  

Thitinan was released on 300,000 baht at about 5.30pm of Tuesday. The court also ordered her to submit her medical record of the past two months to the court within 7 days. Thitinan will fight the case to the Supreme Court.

Before the Court of First Instance, a psychiatrist from Kanlaya Ratchanakarin Hospital, who treated the defendant after the arrest, testified that in 2013 Thitinan suffered from bipolar disorder, adding that the defendant was mentally ill when she committed the crime. 

Thitinan had been previously treated for mental illness at Srithanya Hospital. 

The defence lawyer did not have Thitinan testify in court because of her mental illness. 

According to Thai law, defendants do not have to serve jail terms if they are mentally deficient when committing a crime. In cases where the defendants are not completely unaware of their actions, the court may reduce the sentence.

On 13 July 2012, about 400 protesters, both pro- and anti-establishment, gathered at the Constitutional Court compound when the court was scheduled to read its ruling on the Pheu Thai Party’s attempt to amend Article 68 of the charter. Anti-establishment, pro-Pheu Thai red-shirt protesters gathered to pressure the court, while another pro-establishment group came to show support for the court. 

Thitinan kicked at the King’s image while a protester was holding it. When the image fell to the ground, she then stepped on it twice. 

“The action immediately brought about a harsh response from the demonstrators. The crowd rushed at her in anger and hurled curses at her but Mrs. Thitinan just laughed. Police officers nearby tried to control the situation before taking Mrs. Thitinan to a police booth to calm down. Many cameramen and mass media reporters took pictures and videos as evidence of the incident”, iLaw reported.