Lèse majesté suspect with mental illness vows to fight his case

Despite the risk of several years in jail, a northern ethnic minority man with mental illness charged under the lèse majesté law has pleaded innocent and vowed to fight the case in the Military Court.

The Military Court on Monday, 20 June 2016, held a deposition hearing for Sao (surname withheld due to privacy concerns), suspected of offences under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, who claims to possess telepathic powers.

Sao pleaded innocent and vowed the fight the case.

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

In March 2015, he visited 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).

Despite the fact that Sao’s defence lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) submitted a letter to the authorities suggesting that the suspect should not be indicted due to his psychosis, military prosecutors indicted him 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.

Sao was earlier imprisoned in cases related to narcotics abuse. He still claims to be able to contact Thaksin by telepathy through a TV and maintains his claims about the King’s property are true.

The Military Court has scheduled the preliminary hearing in the case on 19 September 2016.

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 courts usually refrain from dismissing the charges.

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