Elderly lèse majesté suspect gets 2 years, 6 months in jail

The Supreme Court has handed a two years and six months jail term to an elderly anti-establishment red shirt accused of defaming the monarchy by uploading lèse majesté audio clips.

On 9 June 2017, the Supreme Court confirmed the Appeal Court verdict, sentencing Chaleaw J., a 58-year-old tailor from the northeastern province of Chaiyaphum, to five years’ imprisonment  

The elderly tailor was indicted under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, and under Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act for importing illegal content online.

The sentence, however, was halved to two years and six months because he pleaded guilty, but the court did not suspend the jail term.

The defendant was accused of uploading onto 4shared.com, a file-sharing website, audio clips with content deemed defamatory to the Thai Monarchy which had been recorded by Hassadin U. aka DJ Banpodj, a well-known red shirt radio host at the centre of the Banpodj Network.

On 1 September 2014, the Criminal Court sentenced Chaleaw to three years’ imprisonment. However, since the defendant pleaded guilty and had never committed a crime before, the jail term was halved and suspended for two years.

But on 8 October 2014, the public prosecutor appealed against the sentence, asking the Court to impose the maximum penalty and to not suspend the jail term.

During the trial in 2014, the full-time tailor and self-taught computer geek said that he would listen to red-shirt online radio programmes or when he was busy with his military/police uniform tailoring, save the audio files for later listening.

He insisted that he did not intend to distribute the clips to anyone else and said he was not aware that uploading the clips could be a crime.

Chaleaw was among 28 people summoned by the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) under Order No. 44, issued on 1 June 2014. He was later charged with lèse majesté after being detained for seven days by the military.

Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code imposes jail terms of three to 15 years for each count of defaming, insulting, or threatening the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne, or the Regent.

At least 109 people have been arrested under Article 112 since the 2014 coup d’état.