Military court sends elderly man to jail for almost 20 years for lèse majesté

A military court has sentenced an elderly man to almost 20 years in jail for royal defamation.

On 9 August 2017, the Military Court of Bangkok handed a sentence of 18 years and 24 months in prison to 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.

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 was accused of six counts of lèse majesté (one per each upload of a Banpodj Network clip) as well as violations of Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act for importing illegal information online.

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.

After about two and a half years in prison, Tara recanted his earlier statement and pleaded guilty.