Military court tries mentally ill lèse majesté suspect

A military court has held the first trial for the lèse majesté suspect who claimed to possess telepathic powers.  

The Military Court of Bangkok on 9 February  2017 held the first trial for Sao Saengmuang, a suspect of offences under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.

Sao was indicted by military prosecutors for submitting a complaint in March 2015 to the Criminal Division for Political Office Holders of the Supreme Court.

His complaint stated that controversial former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had misallocated the property of the late King Bhumibol. He claimed that he was in charge of managing 7 billion baht (196 million USD).

During the trial, Laddawan Niyom, staff of the Supreme Court, who filed the complaint against the suspect said that certain messages of Sao’s complaint contained references to the Thai Monarchy and were defamatory to the late King.

The military court has scheduled the next trial on the case on 25 May 2017.  

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 that his claims about the King’s property are true.

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.