Mentally ill ethnic minority member indicted for lèse majesté

Military prosecutors have filed lèse majesté charges against a man from an ethnic minority in northern Thailand who claims to possess telepathic powers.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), reported that at the Military Court of Bangkok on Wednesday, 20 April 2016, staff of the military Judge Advocate General’s Department indicted Sao (surname withheld due to privacy concerns) under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.

The military prosecutors decided to indict Sao after psychiatrists from the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute in Bangkok concluded in December 2015 that Sao is fit to stand trial in a military court after he was sent to the Institute for a psychiatric evaluation.

However, the Military Court granted bail with a Government Savings Bank lottery savings certificate worth 400,000 baht as surety. The lottery savings certificate is derived from a fund collected from private donors for political prisoners.

Sao, from the Thai Lue ethnic minority in the northern province of Chiang Rai, is accused by the Criminal Division for Political Office Holders of the Supreme Court of making false claims about the monarchy’s property.

On 13 March 2015, he came to the Criminal Division for Political Office Holders to submit a complaint which stated that controversial former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had misallocated the property of the King. He claimed that he was in charge of managing 7 billion baht (196 million USD).

Tung Song Hong police summoned him to hear the accusation in late May 2015 and held him in custody at the Remand Prison from 28 May to 19 August last year.

TLHR reported that the suspect was earlier imprisoned on cases related to narcotics abuse and that he claimed that he could contact Thaksin by a telepathic method through a TV.

On 26 January 2016, TLHR submitted a letter to the authorities, suggesting that the suspect should not be indicted due to his psychosis, as Sao still claims that he has telepathic powers and maintains that his claims about the King’s property are true.

There have been several lèse majesté cases involving people with mental illness in the past several years, but because of the great sensitivity surrounding cases related to the Thai monarchy, the court usually refrains from dismissing the charges.

Since jurisdiction over cases under Article 112 was transferred from the court of justice to the military court after the 2014 coup d’état, sentences given to lèse majesté suspects have tended to be more severe, regardless of the suspects’ mental condition.