Elderly man jailed for two years for selling lèse majesté book

The court has sentenced a bookseller to two years in jail for selling a banned book on the killing of King Ananda, a former king and older brother of the current King.

The Southern Bangkok Criminal Court on 15 September 2016 read the Supreme Court’s verdict on the lèse majesté case of a 67-year-old man referred to as Defendant U.

The defendant, who requested his full name be withheld, was accused of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code — the lèse majesté law — for selling the book ‘The Devil’s Discus’ at a pro-establishment yellow shirt rally in May 2006.

The book, written by the English-South African author Rayne Kruger and published in 1964, was declared illegal by Thai authorities in 2006. It was translated into Thai by Chalit Chaisithiwet and a Thai version was published in 1974.

According to Wikipedia, as soon as the book was published, it was banned in Thailand. Kruger was also banned from further entry to Thailand.

The Supreme Court confirmed an earlier ruling by the Appeal Court by sentencing Defendant U to three years imprisonment. However, the jail term was reduced by one third to two years because the testimony of the defendant was viewed as beneficial to the case.

According to the accusation, six sections in the book constituted lèse majesté. The six sections present the author’s theories about the cause of the former King’s death, theories which involve the current King. The author concludes that the former King was likely to have committed suicide because his relationship with a foreign woman was unacceptable.  

In passing the verdict, the Supreme Court reasoned that since Defendant U is an experienced book seller, he should have known that the content constituted lèse majesté. The court thus viewed as unsound the defendant's’ claim that he did not have knowledge of the book’s content.

The defendant was also caught selling another banned book involving the monarchy, the court added.

When he was arrested, the police confiscated a copy of Same Sky journal, the “Monarchy and Thai Society” issue of Oct-Dec 2005 (the Coca Cola issue), in addition to a copy of ‘The Devil’s Discus’.

The two books are banned under the now-abolished Printing Act. The Public Prosecutor only pressed charges for selling ‘The Devil’s Discus’.  

The court of first instance had ruled earlier that the book had content defaming the King, and that the writer, Kruger, intended to insult the King. The court, however, acquitted Defendant U because the prosecutors failed to prove that the defendant knew the book contained lèse majesté content.

Covers of the Devil's Discus in English and the in Thai. Photo Courtesy of New Mandala and FACTHAI

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