UN calls detention of 2 lèse majesté convicts ‘arbitrary’

The UN has concluded that the detention of two lèse majesté convicts who were each sentenced to more than two decades in jail is arbitrary.   

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights on 19 October 2017 reported that the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has concluded that Sasiwimon S. and Tiensutham S., aka. Yai Daengduad, are detained arbitrarily.

The two were convicted under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law. The Military Court of Chiang Mai in 2015 sentenced Sasiwimon to 28 years in prison while Tiensutham received 25 years from Bangkok Military Court.

The working group stated after its 79th meeting on 21-25 August that the detention of the two violated international conventions to which Thailand is a state party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The UN has previously judged arbitrary the detention of four lèse majesté convicts: Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Pornthip Munkong, Patiwat Saraiyaem and Phongsak S.

After UN inquired about the detention of Sasiwimon and Tiensutham in June 2017, the Thai government replied that the state protects and values freedom of expression as it is a foundation of democratic society, but it should be implemented under the law without affecting ‘social order and harmony’.

The government also stated that Article 112 of the Criminal Code is necessary to protect the Thai Monarchy as the monarchy is one of the main pillars of Thai society.

Sasiwimon, a 31-year-old single mother with two children, was initially sentenced to 56 years in jail for allegedly posting seven lèse majesté messages under the Facebook identity ‘Rungnapha Kampichai’.

Tiensutham is a 60-year-old consultant to several construction companies. He was sentenced to 50 years prison for committing similar offences.

As the two pleaded guilty, however, both jail terms were halved. They could not appeal the sentences because they were tried in a military court.