Justice Minister on lèse majesté suspects' deaths: Suicides, deaths in prisons not uncommon

After two lèse majesté suspects died in custody within 14 days, the Thai Minister of Justice had told the media that suicides and fatal illnesses in detention facilities are not strange.

On Tuesday, 10 November 2015, Gen Paiboon Kumchaya, Minister of Justice, said that he personally informed Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta’s leader and Prime Minister, about the death of Suriyan Sucharitpolwong, aka Mo Yong, a well-known fortune-teller who was charged under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, for making false claims about the monarchy for personal benefit.

The Justice Minister announced yesterday that Mo Yong died from septicaemia on 6 November 2015.

According to the autopsy done by the Institute of Forensic Medicine under the Police General Hospital, he died from circulation and respiratory failure resulting from septicaemia shortly after he was sent to the Police General Hospital from the remand facility in the 11th Army Division on Nakhon Chaisri road, Bangkok.

His death came 14 days after Pol Maj Prakrom W., an inspector in the Technology Crime Suppression Division charged in the same case, reportedly committed suicide by hanging on 23 October 2015.

Regarding the deaths of the two lèse majesté suspects, Gen Paiboon said that deaths and suicides are not uncommon in prisons throughout the country, which currently detain about 300,000-400,000 people.

He added that health checks will be carried out on Jirawong W., Suriyan’s close associate, who is currently detained at the 11th Army Division.

The Minister further said that the remand facility in the 11th Army Division is not a ‘military prison’, but a normal remand facility run by the Department of Corrections.

After the deaths of the two suspects, many human rights organisations are now calling for accountability and greater transparency on the detention of lèse majesté suspects.

According Khaosod English, Angkhana Neelapaijit, a National Human Rights Commissioner, spoke in her personal capacity as a human rights activist that neither the Rights Commission nor the Red Cross are allowed to access the remand facility in the 11th Army Division.

Suriyan, Prakrom, and Jirawong W., Suriyan’s close associate, were detained on 21 October 2015.

The three were accused by the Thai military under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, for making false claims about the Thai monarchy in order to solicit money from major business operators while taking part in organising ‘Bike for Mom’, a cycling event to honour HM the Queen on 16 August 2015 and the upcoming ‘Bike for Dad’, a similar event for HM the King in December.

On Sunday, the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) legal division filed a lèse majesté complaint against Col Kotchachat Boondee for involvement in the same case as the late fortune teller.

The Colonel has reportedly fled to Myanmar.

On 16 October 2015, Naewna News Online, reported a rumour that Suriyan had been arrested at his house by police officers on allegations of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law. There were rumours that he was being held incommunicado by the military as he had disappeared from public view.