A military court on Tuesday sentenced eight defendants to 10 years in jail for lèse majesté, while two other defendants were sentenced to six years. However, since they pleaded guilty, the jail terms were halved. The 10 defendants are accused of being members of the anti-monarchy Banpodj Network, which allegedly produced podcast programmes criticizing HM the King.
A total of 14 people were arrested for their alleged involvement in the Bandpodj Network. They were separated into two groups of 12 and two, each group facing different charges. Two of the 12 decided to fight the case, while 10 pleaded guilty. The verdicts for the 10 were read on Tuesday morning, 14 July 2015.
Hassadin U., 64, aka "DJ Banpodj" is among the eight who were sentenced to 10 years in jail for violations of Article 112 of the Criminal Code and Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act (for importing illegal content into a computer system). Meanwhile, the other two, including Hassadin's wife, were not found guilty of lèse majesté, but guilty on a charge of supporting the activity of the network.
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 a press briefing, 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
The 14 defendants were arrested in January and February 2015. After the arrests, they were detained without charge in military camps for about three to five days before arrest warrants were issued. During about half a year in detention, many of them have repeatedly filed bail requests. The military court denied their bail requests citing the flight risk.
According to defendants and lawyers, Hassadin, aka DJ Banpodj, has produced about 400 voice clips since early 2009. Later a page called “Truth is easy when we find it” was set up on Facebook to disseminate the clips.
DJ Banpodj is not only famous for political clips. His programmes discussing health issues gained lots of fans. His fans also shared them on mediafire, 4share and Youtube.
The arrested fans of Banpodj are from various socio-economic backgrounds, from a motorcycle taxi to an employee of an international company and a civil servant.
The two who face more severe charges are Anchan P., 58 and Tara, 57. These two cases were handled by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI). Unlike the other 12, whose cases were investigated by the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) and whose alleged wrongdoings were compiled into a single offence, Anchan and Tara face 29 and six offences, respectively.
Anchan is a C8 civil servant in the Revenue Department in Bangkok. She is accused of being responsible for the network’s finances.
Tara W., 57, is a Thai traditional doctor. He is accused of being the owner of a tourism website, okthai.com. He was charged because in a tiny corner of the website is a banner with a link promoting Banpodj’s programme.