70-year-old detained for saying all Thais should be equal

Thai police officers detained an elderly writer after he made comments about the new constitutional draft, which they said might affect national security.  

Police officers on Saturday afternoon, 12 September 2015, detained a 70-year-old independent writer known by his penname Bundit Aneeya, after he made suggestions at a seminar on the new constitution drafting process at Thammasat University, Tha Prachan Campus, Bangkok.

The speakers at the seminar include many pro-democracy figures, such as Rangsiman Rome, an anti-junta activist from the New Democracy Movement (NDM), Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, a pro-democracy civil law scholar, and Chaturon Chaisang, a former Education Minister, who recently had his passport revoked by the Thai authorities.

There were several police and military officers at the event, reportedly including some in plainclothes. The officers claimed that they attended the discussion only to maintain security.        

The suggestions from Bundit on the new constitution which is about to be redrafted after the National Reform Council (NRC) rejected it earlier this month were that the new constitution should contain the idea that Thai people of all classes shall be equal and all are equal owners of the country.

Bundit Aneeya at Chanasongkram Police Station on 12 September 2015

After the comment was made, the police from Chanasongkram Police Station summoned Bundit to the station when the seminar ended. He was detained at the station for the about three hours until about 7:45 pm.

According to Anon Numpa, a well-known pro-democracy lawyer who attended the seminar and followed Bundit to the police station, the police took Bundit into an interrogation room and requested to have words with him alone.

In the end he was released without charge. He told Prachatai without concern that he would not made such comments at public seminars again.

“I will not do this ever again, [I will] stop for this nation to prove that I’m not crazy,” said Bundit.

In March 2015, military prosecutors indicted Bundit under Article 112 of the Criminal Crime Code, the lèse majesté law, for allegedly making comments about the Thai monarchy at a political seminar.   

Bundit pleaded innocent and vowed to fight the case. He told Prachatai then “I believe I’m innocent and didn’t do anything wrong.”

According to the case filed by the prosecutor, the alleged lèse majesté comment he made was:

“My point is now Thai people are separated into two sides: one which is in favour of a monarchy which does not abide by the law, as the head of the state, …”

He was arrested by the police before he could even finish the sentence.

Bundit has been released on 400,000 baht (12,270 USD) bail due to his age and poor health. He is one of the few lèse majesté suspects granted bail by a military court.

The writer, who has been diagnosed with psychosis, has only one kidney and has to carry a urine drainage bag with him all the time.

Earlier in February 2014, the self-taught writer and translator, who has written and translated over 30 books, was found guilty by the Supreme Court under Article 112 for comments at another previous seminar he attended and sentenced to four years in jail, but the jail term was suspended for three years due to his mental illness. The allegedly lèse majesté comment that he made also pointed out the general opinion of Thais toward the monarchy. If convicted again, his jail terms will accumulate.