‘I only went to temple to make merit’: imprisoned lèse majesté suspect

A court has renewed the detention of a suspect accused of royal defamation although there is no apparent evidence linking him to a group of people accused of defaming Princess Sirindhorn.  

On 18 September 2017, the Provincial Court of Kamphaeng Phet began the trial in a case which four people have been indicted under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.

The prosecutor said the four forged documents from the Secretariat Office of Princess Sirindhorn promising the Princess’ presence at a religious event in April 2015 at Wat Sai Ngam in Kamphaeng Phet Province, provided the temple paid them 100,000 baht.

Only two of the accused, Atsadaphon and Noppharit (surnames withheld due to privacy concerns), are still fighting the case; the other two have pleaded guilty.  

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), who have been providing legal assistance to Noppharit, all the witnesses who were present at the religious event testified that they did not know the suspect prior to the event.

Noppharit always maintained that he is innocent and only participated in the event because he was invited to make merit at the temple by Wiset, one of the two suspects who pleaded guilty.

“I was shocked and surprised because I didn’t know anything. Suddenly the arrest warrant arrived and [I was] confused and surprised when read the charge,” Nopparit told TLHR.

During the deposition hearing in 2015, Noppharit claimed not to know the other three suspects and maintained that he was not involved in the alleged crimes. He pointed out that when the police arrested him, he made no effort to escape because he had no knowledge of the case. All four suspects have been detained since their arrest, since the court has repeatedly denied bail.

Noppharit also submitted a request to the court and the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to consider whether the charge of making false claims about Princess Sirindhorn falls under Article 112.

The court, however, rejected the request while the AGO confirmed the decision of the Kamphaeng Phet prosecutor to indict him.

Noppharit was arrested in August 2015 and has remained in jail since as the court repeatedly denied him bail.  

TLHR pointed out that indicting the four under Article 112 significantly affects interpretation of the lèse majesté law and the country’s judicial system in general, as the law states, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, Heir-apparent or Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years”.