Military prosecutors dismiss lèse majesté charges against 3 suspects

For the first time since the 2014 coup d’état, military prosecutors have dismissed lèse majesté charges against three suspects accused of defaming the Thai monarchy on Facebook.

Sasinan Thamnitinan, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), told Prachatai on Tuesday, 2 February 2016, that military staff of the Judge Advocate General’s Office had decided not indict Jaruwan E., 26, Anon, 22, and Chat, 20, accused of using a Facebook page under the name of Jaruwan to defame the King.

The lawyer said that it is the first lèse majesté case that military prosecutors have dismissed.   

Earlier, the police charged them with offences under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act (importing illegal computer content) after the three were arrested in mid-November 2014.

The three were then detained for almost three months.

They were accused of being involved in the Facebook page of “Jaruwan E. (full surname)” which posted explicit lèse majesté content and photos of Jaruwan. The military arrested Jaruwan, but she denied all allegations, saying that she did not have control over the page and she believed that the page was a ploy by a disappointed admirer to cause her trouble, suspecting that Chat, a friend of her boyfriend Anon, was behind the Facebook page. The military then arrested the two men, one of whom cannot read or write.

Jaruwan said she earlier faced similar ploys to cause her trouble on Facebook such as posts saying that she sells sex, and posts which insulted a female friend whose boyfriend is a police officer.   

Since Thailand has a strict lèse majesté law and whoever speaks publicly against the Thai monarchy easily becomes the target of political cyber-bullying, most explicit lèse majesté comments online are posted anonymously or under pseudonyms. There are only a few cases where Thais living abroad have defamed the King using social network accounts under their real names.

Thai Netizen Network in 2011 recorded several cases of copycat Facebook pages/profiles which posted explicit lèse majesté material as a ploy to cause trouble to ultra-royalists using the laws they themselves support.

Jaruwan left school after grade four and worked at a factory in Ratchaburi Province. Anon left school at grade six, worked as a welder and cannot read and write. Chat left school at grade six and is a fisherman.