Elderly leftist given 6 years in prison for lèse majesté

The Criminal Court has sentenced an elderly leftist to six years in prison for distributing lèse majesté leaflets in 2007.

The Criminal Court of Nonthaburi Province on Tuesday morning, 1 December 2015, sentenced Charnvit J., a 60-year-old self-proclaimed leftist, to six years’ imprisonment for an offence under Article 112 of the Criminal Act, the lèse majesté law.

Charnvit was accused of distributing lèse majesté leaflets at a political demonstration on 25 November 2007. The prosecutors indicted him under Article 112 for defaming the King, the Queen, the Crown Prince and Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the second daughter of the King, in the leaflets.

During the hearing on 16 September 2015, Charnvit admitted that he distributed the leaflets, but disagreed that the leaflets defamed the Thai monarchy.

The elderly leftist said that he produced the leaflets because he wanted the ‘spirit’ of the People’s Party, the group that led the coup that ended the absolute monarchy in 1932, to come true wherein the country would be ruled by ‘the monarchy under a democratic constitution’ not a country with a ‘democratic system of governance with the monarch as the head of state’.

He stated that he produced the leaflets to honestly express his thoughts about the ‘transition’ of the country concerning the Thai monarchy, adding that the Thai monarchy would be more ‘stable’ if the institution resembled the Japanese monarchy.

“Distributing leaflets is a kind of political action. My purpose is only to examine the ‘transition’ [in Thai society]. I’m a citizen, so I need to introduce some new ideas to the society. [I] can’t just sit passively,” said Charnvit during the examination hearing in September.

At the hearing, he also talked about the history of the use of Article 112.

The elderly leftist said that the lèse majesté law has been used since the reign of Rama V, but penalties for the offence were rare and not severe. However, under the military government of Thanin Kraivichien, 1976-1977, the authorities began to use the lèse majesté law to crush political dissidence, especially people who were alleged to be communists.   

In 2008, the Criminal Court released Charnvit on bail. He was not present in court when bail was granted.

The lèse majesté case against him, however, was brought up again earlier this year when Charnvit was alleged to be one of the suspects in the Ratchada Criminal Court bombing on 7 March 2015.

He and other court bombing suspects have been detained for the last eight months since March.

Sansern Sriounruen, another suspect in the court bombing case, on 21 July 2015 submitted a request to the Royal Thai Police to investigate allegations of torture inflicted on him and other suspects.

Sansern accused military personnel of torturing him and three other suspects in the same case, Charnwit J., Norapat Lueapol, and Wichai Yusuk, while they were held under martial law from 9-15 March 2015.

According to Thai lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the four faced various forms of physical torture.   

“The four suspects have been subjected to torture including being hit, punched and kicked in the head, chest, and back and threatened with assault in order to extract information from them,” said TLHR. “In addition, some suspects were electrocuted, leaving visible marks on the skin, while in custody under martial law from 9 to 15 March 2015.”

Charnvit was a student of the Faculty of Medical Technology of Chiang Mai University in the 1970s. However, he did not complete his studies. The self-proclaimed leftist took up arms and went into the jungle in northern Thailand with many other students after the 1976 student massacre in Thammasat University, Bangkok.

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