Lèse majesté convict freed after 2 years, 8 months in prison

The Supreme Court reduced the jail term of a lèse majesté convict, setting him free eight months earlier than his initial jail term.

On Sunday, 15 November 2015, Ekachai H., a lèse majesté convict, was set free after serving two years and eight months in prison.

Ekachai was arrested on 10 March 2011 and charged under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, and the Film Act for selling pirated copies of a news documentary produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) about the future of the Thai monarchy near Sanam Luang, the Royal Field in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

After his arrest Ekachai was held in custody for nine days. Unlike most lèse majesté cases, the court later granted Ekachai 500,000 baht bail.

Ekachai pleaded innocent and chose to fight the case up to the Supreme Court.

He maintained that he did not sell the pirated CDs for money, but he simply wanted people who were divided and polarized by the two major political camps in Thailand, the pro-establishment yellow shirts and the anti-establishment red shirts, to listen to ‘neutral’ and ‘factual’ information.

“I don’t think that the content is defamatory,” the Nation then quoted Ekachai as saying.      

The Court of First Instance in March 2013 sentenced Ekachai to five years imprisonment under Article 112 and a 100,000 baht fine for violating the Film Act. However, the sentence was reduced by one third to three years and four months in prison and a 66,666 baht fine because he was cooperative during the trial. Later, the Appeal Court confirmed the ruling of the Court of First Instance.

On 9 October 2015, however, the Supreme Court ruled to reduce the sentence to four years instead of five years imprisonment, with the term still reduced by one third. Ekachai was therefore released on 15 October, eight months ahead of the initial schedule.

He told Prachatai that he was surprised that he was released eight months early and is glad to be able to come home again.

When asked about his political views after his release, he said “on [my] political thoughts, some have changed and some remain unchanged, but I’m more mature politically.”

He added that he plans to write a book about his life in prison.

Ekachai further told Prachatai that he still thinks that he is innocent. “There were plenty of inducements in prison to persuade you to give up the fight so that the case would end quickly with a reduced sentence. But I chose to fight because I feel that I have done nothing wrong.”

Ekachai added “There were delays. The Supreme Court took seven months to accept the case after the Appeal Court. At that time, [I] was discouraged, questioning why it took so long, and people were saying that next April pardons might be granted, so just give in. But eventually, I decided that as [I have] already fought this far then [I should] go on to the very end. People thought I was stupid.”

Describing his experience in prison, he told Prachatai “My world was limited to an area of two and a half rai (0.4 hectare). Once in a long while, I could get out when lawyers and family members paid me visits, but I got a lot of experience. Don’t think that there are only bad people in prisons, there are more good people actually. It was something that I didn’t expect.”

A video interview with Ekachai H. by Prachatai after his release on Sunday, 15 October 2015

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