Police press royal defamation charge for comment on ancient King

The police have decided to press royal defamation charges against Sulak Sivaraksa, a renowned royalist and lèse majesté critic, over a public speech about King Naresuan, who ruled the Ayutthaya Kingdom 400 years ago.

On 9 October 2017, Puangthip Boonsanong, a lawyer representing Sulak, said the police took Sulak, 84, to the Military Court of Bangkok and submitted to the military prosecutor the case file in which he is accused of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.

The military prosecutor will decide on 7 December 2017 whether to indict.

Lt Gen Padung Niwatwan and Lt Gen Pittaya Vimalin filed a complaint at Chanasongkram Police Station in 2014. They accused Sulak of defaming the ancient king during a public speech on “Thai History: the Construction and Deconstruction” in October 2014 at Thammasat University, Bangkok.

In the speech, Sulak said the legend of the elephant battle between Naresuan and a Burmese king was constructed. He also criticized the personality of the legendary Ayutthaya king as cruel.  

The notorious lèse majesté law or Article 112 of the Criminal Code states "Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, Heir-apparent or Regent shall be punished (with) imprisonment of three to fifteen years."

Sulak told Prachatai in a video interview in 2014 that Article 112 only protects the present monarch, Queen and Crown Prince.

This is the second lèse majesté case related to a past monarch. In late 2013, the Supreme Court handed out a landmark verdict in a lèse majesté case in which the defendant was found guilty of defaming King Rama IV, who reigned between 1851 and 1868, surprising lawyers and academics who have always understood that the law does not cover former kings.

Naresuan, who ruled over the Ayutthaya Kingdom from 1590 to 1605, has become one of Siam's most revered monarchs as he was known for his campaigns to free Siam from Burmese rule. During his reign numerous wars were fought against Burma.

Several films and soap operas have been made about the monarch. The most recent are the Legend of King Naresuan, comprising five movies telling the story of the young Naresuan till his death. One movie in the series was dedicated to the elephant battle alone.

In a separate case, a military officer filed a lèse majesté complaint against Sulak in 2015 for allegedly criticising Thai monarchs of the early 20th century, Kings Rama V and Rama VII, during a seminar entitled ‘83 Years of Thailand’s Development after the 1932 Revolution of Siam’.

The case is still being investigated by the police.  

Sulak Sivaraksa