Red-shirt singer faces third lèse majesté charge

A prosecutor in Ratchaburi has indicted a red-shirt country singer for lèse majesté, without giving prior notice to the suspect or his lawyer.
 
On 25 January 2018, a public prosecutor in Ratchaburi indicted Thanat Thanawatcharanon, 60, whose stage name is Tom Dundee, for lèse majesté under Article 112 of the Criminal Code. He was accused of making a speech deemed defamatory to the monarchy during a protest of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship -- the red shirts.
 
According to Thanat’s lawyer Thamrong Lakdaen, this lawsuit has been dormant for such a long while that Thanat’s previous lawyer assumed that the authorities had already abandoned the prosecution. Thamrong and a friend of Thanat confirmed to Prachatai that the court summoned Thanat urgently, without prior notice, so the lawyer could not be present in court during the indictment.
 
“Yesterday, we visited Tom at Ratchaburi Prison but hadn’t known that today the prosecutor would indict him and that he had to go to court today. Even he himself didn’t know,” said Thanat’s friend. 
 
Thanat was indicted on two other lèse majesté charges for defaming the monarchy in speeches at two anti-establishment red-shirt rallies held by Kotee Red Guard in November 2013. While the first case was processed by the Criminal Court, the second case was heard by the Military Court because the YouTube clip of the speech was available online until 27 June 2014, after the coup d’état.
 
Thanat recanted his earlier statement and pleaded guilty to the lèse majesté charge in May 2016 after being imprisoned for almost two years. He told Prachatai then that he just wanted the case to end as soon as possible.
 
Prior to his arrest, he was charged with defying the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) order to report to the military. He was then released on bail.
 
Thanat became seriously engaged in politics in 2010 before the government violently suppressed the red-shirt rally. He decided to become one of the red-shirt leaders, which meant losing income from his concert tours. He used to do 20-25 concerts per month, but after he took part in the movement, most were cancelled.
 
 
Thanat Thanawatcharanon under custody (file photo)