Well-known red shirt singer gets 7.5 years in prison for lèse majesté

The Criminal Court has sentenced a well-known anti-establishment red-shirt country singer to seven years and six months in prison for lèse majesté, making him promise to grow trees to honour the Thai monarchy after his release.

On Wednesday morning, 1 June 2016, the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Rd, Bangkok, sentenced Thanat Thanawatcharanon, 58, aka Tom Dundee, a country singer-turned-red-shirt activist, to 15 years’ imprisonment for offences under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.

Thanat received five years’ imprisonment for each of the three lèse majesté counts from two of his speeches deemed defamatory to the Thai monarchy which were publicized on YouTube and were online from late 2013 to 26 April 2014.

As he pleaded guilty, the court halved the sentence to seven years and six months.

Thanat recently pleaded guilty to the lèse majesté charge on Monday after being imprisoned for almost two years. He told Prachatai then that he just wants to case to end as soon as possible in order to request a royal pardon.

After reading the verdict, the court judges ordered Thanat to promise that he will sing anthems to foster the reconciliation process of the country and grow trees to honour the Thai monarchy.

Thanat was indicted on two lèse majesté charges. On another charge, he was accused of defaming the monarchy in speeches at two anti-establishment red-shirt rallies held by Kotee Red Guard in November 2013. This case is being handled by the Military Court as the YouTube clip of the speech was available online until 27 June 2014, after the coup d’état.

The attorney representing Thanat told Prachatai that his client might also plead guilty to the lèse majesté charge in the military court at the upcoming hearing on 21 June 2016.

Prior to his arrest, he was charged with defying the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) order to report to the military. He was then released on bail.

Thanat became seriously engaged in politics in 2010 before the red-shirt rally was violently suppressed by the government. He decided to become one of the red-shirt leaders, which meant losing income from his concert tours. He used to do 20-25 concerts per month but after he took part in the movement, most were cancelled.

Thanat Thanawatcharanon under custody (file photo)