Updated: Embattled 71-year-old writer arrested for third time under lèse majesté law

Updated: According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the Military Court of Bangkok on 16 November 2016 has denied the bail request for Bundit Aneeya. He will be detained in Bangkok Remand Prison for the first custody period from 16-29 November 2016 with the possibility of the custody permission being renewed.

Updated2: on 17 November, Bangkok Military Court granted bail for Bundit with 400,000 baht in cash as surety.  

The Thai police have arrested a 71-year-old writer under the lèse majesté law for allegedly making comments about the Thai Monarchy while talking about human dignity at a political seminar.

On 14 November 2016, police officers from Chanasongkram Police Station, Bangkok, arrested a 71-year-old independent writer known by his penname Bundit Aneeya at his house in Nong Khaem District.

At the police station, the police informed Bundit that he is accused of committing an offence under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, for allegedly making comments about the Thai monarchy at a political seminar about the junta-sponsored constitution drafting process.

The seminar was held on 12 September 2015 at Thammasat University, Tha Prachan Campus. It was organised by the New Democracy Movement (NDM), an anti-junta youth activist group.

According to the police, at the seminar the elderly writer proposed five important principles that should be put in the draft constitution, one of which is about human dignity. The police said that the comment about human dignity allegedly contained references to the Thai Monarchy.

After the seminar, on 12 September 2015, the police summoned Bundit to the police station after police officers and soldiers who were deployed to monitor the seminar heard him say that the new constitution should contain the idea that Thai people of all classes shall be equal and all are equal owners of the country.

At that time, however, the authorities did not accuse him of lèse majesté and released him without charge.  

Pawinee Chumsri, lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), told Prachatai that the police will submit a request to remand Bundit in custody to the Military Court of Bangkok at around 10 am on 16 November. She added that the investigation officers told her that they will not object the suspect’s bail request.

This is the third accusation of lèse majesté filed against Bundit.

In the first case, the self-taught writer and translator, who has written and translated over 30 books, was found guilty by the Supreme Court in February 2014 for comments at a seminar he attended and sentenced to four years in jail, but the jail term was suspended for three years due to his mental illness. The allegedly lèse majesté comment that he made also pointed out the general opinion of Thais toward the monarchy.

In the second case, military prosecutors indicted Bundit in March 2015 for allegedly making comments about the Thai monarchy at another political seminar. Bundit pleaded innocent and vowed to fight the case. He told Prachatai then “I believe I’m innocent and didn’t do anything wrong.”

According to the case filed by the prosecutor, the alleged lèse majesté comment he made was:

“My point is now Thai people are separated into two sides: one which is in favour of a monarchy which does not abide by the law, as the head of the state, …”

He was arrested by the police before he could even finish the sentence.  He was released on 400,000 baht (12,270 USD) bail due to his age and poor health. He is one of the few lèse majesté suspects granted bail by a military court. This trial is still ongoing.

If convicted again, his jail terms will accumulate.

The writer, who has been diagnosed with psychosis, has only one kidney and has to carry a urine drainage bag with him all the time. 

 
Bundit Aneeya at Chanasongkram Police Station on 12 September 2015