Mentally ill man faces lèse majesté for calling removal of officials

The Military Court has granted bail to a man with symptoms of psychosis who is accused of lèse majesté for submitting a statement calling for the removal of government officials.

The Bangkok Military Court on Friday, 16 October 2015, granted 100,000 baht bail (about 2,822 USD) to Prajakchai, a 41-year-old man from the northeastern province of Si Sa Ket whose surname is withheld due to privacy concerns.  He is accused of offenses under Article 112 of the Criminal Crime Code, the lèse majesté law.

The 41-year-old technician was arrested and charged on 19 February 2015 after he earlier that day travelled to Government House in Bangkok and submitted a request to have high-ranking government officials removed from their posts.

He was sent to Bangkok Remand Prison after his arrest and remained there for 241 days.

According to iLaw, an internet based rights advocacy group, Prajakchai has submitted similar statements more than 20 times since 1992, but the security guards of the Government House never allowed him access. He was once arrested, but was later released before being charged under the lèse majesté law.

In Thailand, the King’s signature is required in the documents issued to appoint high-ranking civil servants and government officials to their posts.

During the trial held on Thursday, 15 October 2015, a psychiatrist from Galya Rajanagarindra Institute in Bangkok who examined Prajakchai testified that it is clear that the suspect has the symptoms of psychosis and is unfit to stand trial.

When asked by the military court judges whether the suspect’s symptoms could be cured, the psychiatrist said that Prajakchai has chronic mental illness and that his condition could only improve if he is given medications on regular basis. However, he added that the suspect also has other physical illnesses and that the medications could affect his liver function.

After listening to the doctor’s testimony, the court ruled to halt the lèse majesté hearing against Prajakchai for the time being in accordance with Article 14 of the Criminal Procedure Act. However, the judges said that it is only temporary since the case is serious as it is related to the revered Thai monarchy.

On the following day, 16 October 2015, Prajakchai’s defence lawyer submitted a 100,000 baht bail request to the military court and the court granted bail. He was released the next morning.

According to the suspect’s family, Prajakchai has had mental illness since he was a teenager. They said that he could live and work normally, but cannot socialize and tends to lose concentration easily. The family cannot provide the suspect with proper medical care because of their meagre income.

There have been several lèse majesté cases involving people with mental illness in the past several years, but since the cases are related to the Thai monarchy the court usually refrains from dismissing the charges.

Since jurisdiction over cases under Article 112 was transferred from the court of justice to the military court after the 2014 coup d’état, the sentences given to lèse majesté suspects have tended to be more severe regardless of the suspects’ mental condition.

In early August 2015, the Military Court of the northern province of Chiang Rai sentenced Samak P., a 48-year-old man accused under Article 112 to 10 years’ imprisonment after the suspect pleaded guilty as charged.

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

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 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.

The convict 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. Samak said that he constantly hears whispers. Before the verdict was read, his lawyer presented medical documents to prove that Samak suffered from serious psychosis.