A provincial court in northern Thailand has sentenced three anti-establishment red shirts to three years’ imprisonment each with the jail term suspended for hanging a banner with a message deemed seditious.
On 22 July 2015, the Provincial Court of the northern province of Chiang Rai sentenced Od Suktako, Thanomsi Namrat, and Suksayam Jomtan, three red shirts from Mae Suai District of Chiang Rai, to four years in jail each under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, Thailand’s sedition law, for hanging a banner with a message viewed as sedition.
The court, however, reduced the jail term to three years because the defendants were cooperative during the trial and the jail term was suspended for five years.
The police issued arrest warrants against the three on 13 June 2014, but they were later released on bail. The prosecutors indicted them under Article 116 for hanging a banner on a pedestrian bridge in Mueang District of Chiang Rai on 26 February 2014. The banner read “These is no justice in this country, we should separate as Lanna State” (Lanna is the name of the ancient Northern Kingdom of Thailand).
According to the verdict, it was clear from the CCTV video footage that the three were among six individuals who hung the seditious banner on the pedestrian bridge.
The judges ruled that the message on the banner stirred up social and political conflict among people given the political circumstances then.
The court rejected as false the claim by the suspects that there is no justice in the country after the criminal court in early 2014 rejected arrest warrants against key leaders of the anti-election People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protesters.
The judges of the provincial court further stated that by expressing such claims, the defendants also insulted the Criminal Court ruling to reject the arrest of the PDRC leaders.
Article 116 of the Criminal Code states that whoever makes apparent to the public by words, writing or any other means anything which is not an act within the purpose of the constitution or which is not the expression of an honest opinion or criticism (a) in order to bring about a change in the laws or the government by the use of coercion or violence, (b) in order to raise confusion or disaffection amongst the people to the point of causing unrest in the kingdom, or (c) have people violate the law, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding seven years.