Elderly man gets additional 18 months for lèse majesté messages in restroom

 

In a deposition hearing held behind closed doors, a military court has sent an elderly man to three years in jail for writing messages defaming the monarchy in a shopping mall restroom.

Bangkok Military Court, on Friday morning, 16 October 2015, sentenced Opas C., a 68-year-old musician, to three years’ imprisonment for offences under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.

The military court judges read the sentence in camera, despite the presence of about 15 delegates from foreign embassies such as, France, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, the UK, Canada and the European Union, reasoning that the case is related to the revered Thai monarchy and might affect public morale and national security,.       

Opas was convicted for writing lèse majesté messages in a restroom in Seacon Square shopping mall in eastern Bangkok in October 2014. 

Since the defendant pleaded guilty, the court halved the jail term to one year and six months’ imprisonment. 

This is the second lèse majesté offence Opas was charged with. On 20 March 2015, the military court sentenced him to three years in jail for writing messages defaming HM the King on the wall of a different restroom in the same shopping mall, but since the defendant pleaded guilty, the jail term was halved to one year and six months.

With the jail term from the second case, the elderly musician now faces three years’ imprisonment in total. Since the case was heard in a military court, the defendant cannot appeal the sentence.  

According to Sasinan Thamnithinan, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) who represented the defendant, the military prosecutors could have indicted Opas on a single lèse majesté charge for he wrote the messages on the same day. However, they chose to file the cases separately, lengthening the court process and the severity of the jail term.

The defence lawyer submitted a request to the court to hear the case as a single case, but under different counts. However, the military court judges dismissed the request. 

“The [military] prosecutors remained adamant about indicting the defendant under two separate charges despite my argument that the defendant wrote the messages on the same day,” said Sasinan.  

Due to Opas’ poor health (he has diabetes and is developing retinopathy), Sauvakon C., Opas’ wife, earlier this year wrote a letter asking the court for mercy. The military court judges explained that they cannot suspend the jail term because the messages defamed the King and the jail term given is not severe.

Opas was caught by guards at Seacon Square mall in eastern Bangkok on 15 October 2014 and later handed over to the military by mall personnel. He has remained in custody in Bangkok Remand Prison since.

The court repeatedly denied his bail requests although the defendant is diabetic and is battling with retinopathy. His lawyer said that Opas has suffered from symptoms of neurosis, which have developed since his arrest.

The alleged lèse majesté messages for which Opas was charged in the first case read: “The government of clowns that robbed the nation, led by f*** Prayut. They have issued ridiculous policies of amateur comedians. Their main job is to use the monarchy (uncle [censored by Prachatai*]). Their main weapon is Article 112. I’m sick of seeing your face [Prayut] every day. It tells me that you [Prayut] are near the end because of the looming internal conflict.”

Prachatai cannot publish the lèse majesté messages for which he was indicted in the second case.

According to someone who has regularly visited Opas and who wishes to remain anonymous, Opas became stressful after the 2014 coup d’état.  

“He explained that he thinks that the coup-makers used the monarchy as a tool to stage a coup. He mentioned that he did not wish to criticise the monarchy and never said whether he loves Thaksin [the controversial ex-Prime Minister ousted out by the 2006 coup] or not, but he said that he disagreed with the coup in 2006. He never participated in political gatherings,” said the anonymous visitor.

Opas’ wife and daughter have been under great strain after the arrest of the beloved father of their family. 

Opas’ wife told Prachatai earlier that since his arrest, a letter condemning Opas for defaming the monarchy was sent to her house.

“There were even some people who came to search for him around the neighbourhood and asked for his whereabouts. They also spread rumours that my husband is a criminal who has committed a serious public indecency” she added.

Not being able play the music which he loves in the detention cells, Opas, a talented musician who could play almost any kind of instrument, wrote a song from prison entitled ‘Status quo’. 

Status quo lyrics:

Children say whatever they see 

Unlike me who couldn't be so free 

* I'm not saying any words of wisdom 

Neither singing any verses of freedom 

Some folks say no news is good news 

I don’t care ʼcos it's only a few 

(*) Repeat

** Keep silent you’ll be distant from jail 

Keep talking you’ll be threatened like hell 

Keep silent you’ll be distant from jail 

Keep talking you’ll be threatened like hell 

Like hell, like hell, like hell

Some folks say no news is good news 

I don’t care ʼcos it's only a few 

The so called tyrant's slying its game 

Without a word, I know it's the same 

(*,**,**)