Human rights lawyer accused of lèse majesté defies authority of the court

An embattled human rights lawyer accused of royal defamation has challenged the impartiality of the court in his case, as it is related to the monarchy.  

On 18 September 2017, the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road, Bangkok, held a deposition hearing for Prawais Prapanugool, a human rights lawyer accused of violating Articles 112 and 116 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law and the sedition law.

Prior to the hearing, Prawais drafted a statement denouncing the legitimacy of the court, reasoning he does not trust the court to remain ‘impartial’ in the case as it relates to the monarchy.

“Thai courts do not have the legitimacy to try the case. Therefore, I declare that I do not accept the judicial process in the case,” Prawais wrote, adding that he will not participate in the case nor grant authority to any lawyer to represent him.

Facing 50 years in prison, he believes that it will not make any difference whether he pleads guilty or innocent because he will not be able tell the truth anyhow.

The court has scheduled prosecution witness hearings for between 8 and 10 May 2018.

Prawais was one of six people arrested by police and military officials on 29 April 2017 before being taken to the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok. He has remained in custody since.

He was indicted on 10 counts of lèse majesté and three counts of sedition, together with violations of the Computer Crime Act.

The maximum penalty for all counts of lèse majesté and sedition adds up to 157 years in prison.  Under Thailand’s Criminal Code, however, the maximum jail term other than life imprisonment is 50 years.

Prawet was a defence lawyer for Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul, aka Da Torpedo, an anti-establishment red shirt who was imprisoned for eight years for making public speeches deemed defamatory to the Thai monarchy in 2008.

He has posted a number of messages critical of the Thai military government and the use of the lèse majesté law.