Submitted on Thu, 22 Feb 2018 - 03:35 PM
A court in Kamphaeng Phet has dismissed royal defamation charges against two suspects accused of making false claims about Princess Sirindhorn in an alleged scam. The verdict, however, does not rule whether the princess is protected under the lèse majesté law.
On 22 February 2018, the Kamphaeng Phet Provincial Court found Atsadaphon and Noppharit (surnames withheld due to privacy concerns) not guilty of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, citing weak evidence.
The two were accused of falsely claiming to have a close connection with Princess Sirindhorn as part of an alleged fraud. According to the authorities, the suspects had forged documents from Princess Sirindhorn’s Secretariat Office promising the Princess’ presence at religious events at Wat Sai Ngam Buddhist Monastery in Kamphaeng Phet Province, provided the temple paid them 100,000 baht.
Noppharit was also additionally accused of falsely claiming to be a “Mom Luang”, a great-great-grandchild of a Thai king.
The police arrested four individuals in late August 2015 and charged them with lèse majesté, falsifying public documents, fraud, and impersonating officers from the Bureau of the Royal Household. The two other suspects have already pleaded guilty and received three years and eight months in prison.
The court gave the suspects the benefit of the doubt, ruling that the evidence failed to prove that they had actually made the false claims, but did not rule whether the Princess is an “heir apparent” to the throne, a position which is protected under the royal defamation law.
Article 112 states "Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir Apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years."
Sirindhorn’s official title in Thai before King Vajiralongkorn ascended to the throne included “Crown Princess.” This has led to a dispute as to whether she was considered an heir apparent of the Thai monarch.
According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the “Record of prosecutions of royal defamation under Article 112 and criminal defamation under Article 326 of the Penal Code” published by the Office of the Council of State (OCS) states that the Princess is not protected under the lèse majesté law. But when the defence lawyer requested access to the document, the OCS refused, saying that publication could damage the monarchy.
The document was accessible on the OCS website until at least June 2017 after the lawyer made the request.
In August 2017, the lawyer made a second attempt by asking the court to order the OCS to allow access to the document. The court rejected the request, stating that it could rule on the case regardless of the OCS document. The lawyer appealed the court’s decision in September 2017. The court rejected the request, reasoning that the OCS does not have authority over the report.