Man gets 6 years in jail for royal defamation

The Appeal Court has sentenced a man accused of defaming the monarchy on Facebook to six years’ imprisonment.

On 27 April 2017, the Appeal Court confirmed the verdict of the Court of First Instance in the lèse majesté case of Piya J., a 47 year-old programmer.

In January 2016 the lower court sentenced him to nine years’ imprisonment with the sentence reduced by one third.

Piya was indicted under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, for allegedly comments and pictures of the King on 27-28 July 2013 under the Facebook profile of Pongsathorn Bantorn, after individuals in the northern province of Nan and the central province of Nakhon Pathom filed complaints against him with the Technology Crime Suppression Division. He was arrested on 11 December 2014.

In addition to Article 112, Piya was also charged under Article 14 of the Computer Crime Code, which forbids the importation of illegal computer content.

During a press conference after the arrest, the police claimed that Piya admitted that he posted the allegedly lèse majesté content and added that Piya has changed his registered name six times since 2001 and that he illegally used his old national identification cards.

At the preliminary hearing held in camera on May 2015, Piya, however, denied the allegations and said that the alleged lèse majesté Facebook profile was not his. Since his arrest, he has consistently denied his involvement in the lèse majesté Facebook profile, which was not his, although the picture on the profile was his picture, which was taken from the defendant’s Twitter and Google Plus accounts.

The only incriminating evidence in this case is the image of the King captured from a mobile phone. The computer forensic evidence and IP addresses were not considered on the case.

Despite weak evidence, the court cited the testimony of Achariya Ruangratpong, one of the plaintiff, as primary evidence on the case.

The plaintiff told the court that Piya used to adopt the name ‘Vincent Wang’ as his online identity before in which the convict admitted to be true.

Achariya also told the court that Piya used to reside in Don Muang District of Bangkok which is consistent with the information from investigators that Piya once adopted the name Pongsathorn Bantorn at Don Muang District Office in the past.       

Piya was a former officer of the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET). He has never participated in any political demonstration and said that he has no interests in politics.

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