Military court sentences man with mental illness to 5 years for lèse majesté

A military court in northern Thailand has sentenced a man diagnosed with psychosis to five years in prison for destroying the King’s portrait.

The military court of the northern province of Chiang Rai on Thursday morning, 6 August 2015, sentenced Samak P., a 48-year-old man accused under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, to 10 years imprisonment after the suspect pleaded guilty as charged last month.

Since the defendant pleaded guilty, the court reduced the jail term by half to five years.

In addition, the military court fined Samak 100 baht (about 3 USD) under Article 371 of the Criminal Code for carrying a kitchen knife in a public place at the time of his arrest. However, the fine was reduced to 50 baht since the suspect pleaded guilty.

Samak was arrested by the police and the deputy village head of San Pasak in Thoeng District of Chiang Rai on 8 July 2014 after he reportedly tore apart a picture of the King at the entrance to the village while carrying a knife. He confessed that he destroyed the picture on the day of his arrest and has remained in custody since.

During the trial on 8 June 2015, the deputy village head testified that Samak seemed drunk and smelled of alcohol when he was arrested.

At the deposition hearing last year, Anon Numpa, the defence lawyer, said that his client admitted to tearing the image, but claimed that he did not intend to do so because the act was done when he was unaware of his own actions, and the case therefore should be dropped.

The military prosecutor, however, objected and said since the defendant did not plead guilty as charged, the trial must be held and the military court judge ruled in favour of the prosecutor.

On 10 July 2015, Samak retracted his pre-trial statement and pleaded guilty as charged after the court told him that there are seven more prosecution witnesses yet to testify in the case because he could no longer stand the lengthy court process and he wanted the case to end as quickly as possible.

Samak has been diagnosed by Chiang Rai Hospital as suffering serious mental illness for several years and has to take medication to battle visual and auditory hallucinations. The defendant said that he constantly hears whispers. His lawyer presented medical documents to prove that Samak suffered from serious psychosis.