Elderly lèse majesté suspect confesses after nearly 3 years in prison

A military court has postponed sentencing an elderly lèse majesté suspect who faces up to 50 years in prison after the suspect recanted his not guilty plea and confessed.

At about 10 am on 26 June 2017, the Military Court of Bangkok postponed the sentencing of Tara W., a 59-year-old seller of Thai traditional medicine accused of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, after he pleaded guilty.

The hearing has been postponed to 9 August 2017.

He was believed to be the owner of a tourism website, okthai.com, which is now blocked by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society.

A tiny corner of the website allegedly contained a banner with a link promoting the programmes of Hassadin U., also known as ‘DJ Banpodj’, the head of the so-called Banpodj Network, which has allegedly produced podcasts criticising the monarchy.

Tara stood accused of six counts of lèse majesté (one per each upload of a Banpodj Network clip) as well as Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act for importing illegal information online. While his lèse majesté charges alone could equate to a jail term as long as 90 years, Thailand’s Code of Criminal Procedure caps jail terms other than life sentences at 50 years.

Tara had previously maintained his innocence, insisting he had not been aware the clips were defamatory to the monarchy because he had not listened to them fully. He had only uploaded them for their information on traditional medicine.

He was arrested on 25 January 2015 and has remained in custody at Bangkok Remand Prison since.

Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code imposes jail terms of between 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.