Youths accused of burning royal arches confess to lèse majesté

Five teenagers and one adult facing royal defamation charges for burning royal arches in northeastern Thailand have pleaded guilty.

On 20 November 2017, the Provincial Court of Phon District in Khon Kaen Province held a preliminary hearing for six suspects indicted for violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, criminal association, and destruction of public property, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

They were charged with burning royal arches in Khon Kaen in May. One of the six suspects is 20 years old while the rest are still teenagers.

At the hearing, all the defendants pleaded guilty. The court scheduled the verdict for 31 January 2018.

Public officials of Chonnabot District also filed a civil lawsuit against the six demanding 961,000 baht in damages for the destruction of the arches. The court will hold a deposition hearing on that case on 12 December 2017.

Earlier, the six pleaded guilty only to destroying public property, but denied the charges of criminal association and lèse majesté.

One of the six said that they chose to plead guilty because the trial would be lengthier if they continued to fight the case, adding that he hopes that the sentence can be halved and that they will receive a royal pardon.

Last week, the court handed jail terms of two years and six months to Nuphin, 64, and Chatchai, 25, (surnames withheld due to privacy concerns). The two were accused of the same offences.

The eight, including another 14-year-old, were arrested on 17 May and held incommunicado at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok for six days.

The 14-year-old will face trial in Khon Kaen Juvenile and Family Court.