Four lèse majesté suspects accused of making false claims about HRH Princess Sirindhorn for financial benefit have denied lèse majesté charges.
According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), on Monday, 21 December 2015, the Provincial Court of Kamphaeng Phet held a deposition hearing for Atsadaphon S., 45, Kittiphop S., 23, Wiset P., 30, and Noppharit, 28, (surnames withheld due to privacy concerns).
The four suspects were arrested in late August 2015 and charged with offences under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, for making false claims about the monarchy, falsifying public documents, fraud, and impersonating officers from the Bureau of the Royal Household.
The police earlier told the media that Kittiphop and Wiset allegedly cooperated with Atsadaphon and Noppharit to claim that they belonged to the Thai aristocracy related to the Royal family with the rank of Mom Luang (M.L.) and were working for the Bureau of the Royal Household.
Pol Col Pairoj Rojjanakhajorn, Director of Section 2 of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), in August said that the gang is also accused of fraud for claiming that they were collecting funds to build a monastery in order to trick high-ranking public servants and many others into donating money to them. The suspects reportedly collected about a million baht from this.
At the hearing, the prosecutor said that the four forged documents of the Secretariat Office of Princess Sirindhorn and claimed that they could invite the Princess to participate in religious events at Wat Sai Ngam Buddhist Monastery of Kamphaeng Phet Province, but needed 100,000 baht for expenses.
But at the deposition hearing, the four suspects denied the charges.
Noppharit, named as the fourth suspect, told the court that he does not know the other three suspects and is not involved in the alleged crimes. He added that when the police arrested him on 21 August 2015 he clearly had no intention to escape because he is not involved in the case and had no knowledge of it.
At the court, Noppharit’s family submitted a bail request with a 1.4 million baht land title deed as surety. However, the court denied bail, citing the severity of the case as it is related to the Thai monarchy and flight risk.
In addition, Noppharit, who is represented by a lawyer from TLHR, submitted a request to the court to consider whether the case falls under Article 112 since he and the other suspects are accused of lèse majesté for making false claims about Princess Sirindhorn, who may not be protected by the lèse majesté law.
The notorious lèse majesté law or Article 112 of the Criminal Code states "Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, Heir-apparent or Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years."
The court at the hearing on Monday morning, however, dismissed the request, saying “under the current procedure, it is not yet necessary to consider the request from the fourth suspect.”
The court has scheduled the next hearing in the case on 5 February 2016.