Police refuse to prosecute anti-junta activist’s mother for lèse majesté

Thai police have refused to press lèse majesté charges against the mother of an embattled anti-junta activist.  

Pol Lt Col Sanpetch Noothong, police investigator of the 3rd Division of the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD), submitted a petition to the relevant authorities to cancel the request to detain Patnaree Charnkij, the mother of well-known anti-junta activist Sirawit Serithiwat, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported.

The request was submitted after Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, refused to prosecute her for offences under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.

Nonetheless, the case will be sent for consideration to the military prosecutor, who will make the final determination on whether she will be indicted.

The police issued an arrest warrant for Patnaree on 6 May 2016 after Lt Chawin Chayawiwattanawong accused her of defaming the Thai monarchy in her private Facebook chat with Burin Intin, a lèse majesté suspect currently in custody in Bangkok Remand Prison.

She was accused under Article 112 for replying to a Facebook message from Burin deemed to be lèse majesté by texting ‘ja’ (Human Rights Watch translated this word as a non-committal, colloquial ‘yes’ in the Thai language) which according to the authorities shows that she allegedly accepted or agreed with the message and failed to report Burin to the authorities.

The Military Court of Bangkok, however, on 8 May 2016 released Patnaree on 500,000 baht bail after she was detained for two days on condition that she does not go abroad or participate in any political activity.

The arrest of Patnaree in May triggered outrage from many anti-junta activists and international human rights advocates, who promptly condemned the Thai authorities for the measure.

According to BBC Thai, at a 7 May press conference, Olan Sukkaseam of the TCSD said that there was more evidence in the case while Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Thai junta leader and Prime Minister, said that the arrest was not motivated by politics and there was more evidence to prosecute Patnaree for lèse majesté.

Up to now, however, the authorities have not presented any other evidence in the case.

 Patnaree Charnkij, a mother of a well-known anti-junta activist Sirawit Serithiwat (courtesy of the BBC Thai)