After two years behind bars, a former engineering student convicted under the lèse majesté law is determined to go back to school and begin a new life.
On 23 June 2016, Akaradej (last name withheld due to privacy concerns), a former engineering student, was released after serving two years and three days in prison for offences under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, and Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act, a law against importation of illegal computer contents.
The Criminal Court in November 2014 ruled that Akaradej used a Facebook username ‘Uncle Dom also loves the King’ to post lèse majesté comments on the Facebook status of a friend and handed him five years imprisonment. However, the sentence was halved to two years and six months after he pleaded guilty.
The case began after one of Akaradej’s Facebook friends, supposedly the owner of the Facebook status, filed a complaint against Akaradej to the police in March 2014, leading to Akaradej’s arrest a few months after. Surapon, Akaradej’s father, told Prachatai that his son had an online quarrel with that Facebook friend over different political ideologies.
Becoming a free man earlier than expected as he received a royal pardon on his jail term, Akaradej told Prachatai that he still has doubts on what he did wrong and wondering why his father has now also been imprisoned for political related crimes and has to stand for trials in the Military Court.
“When I was in there, I kidded myself that I want to become the Minister of Justice, so I could change these things. The Department of Corrections should treat inmates better. We inmates feel that sometimes it’s too much for people who were imprisoned for cases similar to us,” said Akaradej.
He added that he wanted to go back to school and complete his engineering degree.
When asked what has emotionally affected him the most, Akaradej said “the saddest things is what year are we living in. Our society is going no where. It’s very cruel inside there [prison]. Which year are we living in. How long has we had democracy, but our society is going no where.” He added “It’s not much different in there [prison] and outside, we are still being constrained inside a small frame.”
Asked as to why he became interested in politics, Akaradej said “I have been interested in politics for a long time. I was in the south while my father was in Bangkok. I did not know if our [political ideas] were the same, but found out that we share similar political stand later. I did not experience much teenagehood. I began working since I was 18 and read a lot of political news since it affects all of us.”
Akaradej (right) after his release