Submitted on Fri, 29 Jan 2016 - 01:19 PM
On 28 December 2015 a military court sentenced Tanitsak to eight years imprisonment, reduced to four years in light of his guilty plea. A defendant in the lèse majesté case concerning the distribution of Banpodj audio programs, Tanitsak, known as Neng Jungnup, is 50 years old.
Prior to testimony, the prosecutor requested that court proceedings be held in secret for fear of threats to national security. The court accordingly expelled the defendant’s relatives and observers from the courtroom.
According to family accounts, Tanitsak was arrested from home on 25 April 2015 in Phu Khiao District, Chaiyaphum Province. He was the final suspected member of the Banpodj network, following the arrests of 12 other suspects from January through March of that year, along with Hassadin, or Banpodj himself. Unlike the others, Tanitsak was not held in military custody before being handed over to the police, according to his attorney.
The military prosecutor filed charges under Articles 112 and 83 of the Criminal Code, and Article 14 (3), (5) of the Computer Crimes Act. The charges were that from 2010 through January 2015, Banpodj recorded and uploaded defamatory audio clips to the medifire.com website and that Tanitsak downloaded the clips and distributed them via Facebook, banpodjthailandclips.simplesite.com and okthai.com in the knowledge that the clips violated Article 112 (details at iLaw).
Prior to Tanitsak’s trial, fourteen persons were charged in the Banpodj Network case, 12 on one count of violating Article 112 and the Computer Crimes Act. Eight of the 12, along with Banpodj, confessed, and on 14 February 2015 the military court sentenced them to 10 years in prison, reduced to five in light of their guilty pleas. Two defendants, Saiphon, the wife of Banpodj, and a motorcycle delivery person were sentenced to six years, reduced to three due to guilty pleas. The other two, Ngoenkhun and Siwaphon contested the charges and their cases are currently under consideration by the military court.
The remaining two defendants in the case were charged separately with Tara charged with six counts and Anchan with 29 counts. That case also is before the military court.
Detained last, Tanitsak’s case lingered for over eight months in spite of his confession, both upon arrest and in questioning. He did not request bail, not wanting to bring hardship on his only sister. Since he has no immediate family, he depends on his sister to visit him in prison and bring money for necessities; that, he feels, is already a great burden on his relatives.
His sister says that Tanitsak, her only brother, suffered a serious lung infection in 2011-2012 during which he lost weight, from over 90 to less than 60 kilograms. She cared for him during his recovery and thinks that during the long idle period of illness and recovery he began to get a large amount of news and information from the Internet. The case arose not long after he began to regain strength. Prior to his arrest, Tanitsak had stopped using Facebook for several months but finally logged in one more time to check the news on his old account. Just one day later he was arrested.
Tanitsak had worked for 22 years as a cameraman’s assistant for a television station news team, covering crime and politics, later shifting to agricultural news.
“Did you know that if you cut down this banana plant, dig out the root, turn it over and replant, it will send out three or four shoots? The plant has great survival instincts,” Tanitsak told the Prachatai reporter as an example of the surprising facts he learned from agricultural reporting.
Tanitsak has a direct way of speaking and a sense of humour. He told us that he likes to cook and doesn’t like being on the run, being on the lookout, looking right and left, every time he goes to the market. Finally he decided not to hide anymore and to bring the affair to a conclusion by pleading guilty to all charges. “If you want to box you have to consider who’s in the ring with you. These are heavyweights.” he said, “I’m not even a welterweight, I’m shredded-pork-weight, too small to contend.”
A friend introduced him to Banpodj radio and gave him a CD recording of Banpodj’s programs in 2008 or 2009. “After listening to the clips, I was shocked and fell ill for a couple of weeks.” However, he did not feel either repulsion or attraction to Banpodj. Although his attitudes are similar to those of most people, he had never shielded himself from information and opinions. With his long reporting experience, he saw it as another piece of the political jigsaw puzzle, and the recordings just piqued his interest. Additional research aroused a greater interest in political history. He affirms, however, that he kept this interest separate from his work in the mass media and that he kept his distance from the Red Shirts on social media. His presence at rallies was in the normal conduct of his duties as a media worker.
“I attended the 2010 rallies every day just to collect the news. I had to monitor the evening speeches till five in the morning. I heard MPs ramble on senselessly and complained about it.” He says that he never posted hostile or impolite messages on his private Facebook page, “For the most part it was humour and verse; I write a lot of poetry. If I have a life beyond my jail term, I’ll write my story and post it on Facebook for sure.”
“I’m not angry with Banpodj for getting me into this situation. Everyone has the right to make his own decisions. I enjoyed listening to him because his programmes saved me the time needed to read books. Most importantly, the reports include very useful medical advice,” he says.
Tanitsak’s sister is concerned over his lung infection. Before he went to prison he was recovering and had regained his weight to nearly 90 kg, but is now back down to just over 60. He also finds it difficult to walk due to injuries from a leg broken in a motorcycle accident a few years ago. A pinched nerve from the accident still causes him to walk with a limp and he refuses an operation. His condition has steadily worsened from the day of his trial, when it was already difficult for him to walk.
Asked about conditions in prison, he says that because the food isn’t very good he doesn’t want to eat and takes only one meal a day. Because of his poor health he has requested exemptions from work. “Mostly, I’m a Nak Prok Buddha in prison.” A visiting friend asked what he meant, “I lie down at night,” he said, “And when I get up I’m like the Nak Prok image because it’s like somebody’s foot is always pressing on my head,” laughing.