Caption: Thanakorn in the monkhood acquitted of lèse-majesté charges.

Commenting on supporters of late King’s dog not illegal, says Court

On 13 January, Samutprakan Provincial Court acquitted "Thanakorn" of lèse-majesté and computer crime charges after the authorities prosecuted him in 2015 for posting a statement relating to a sarcastic comment against supporters of Thong Daeng, the favourite dog of the late King Bhumibol.

Court said that according to the plaintiff, Thanakorn (with surname withheld) took screenshots of two comments and posted them on his Facebook page with a caption saying that he “read the comments and felt so touched”.

The first comment was a statement without any disdain or hatred. The other was sarcastic towards ordinary people who appreciated Thong Daeng. However, neither constituted lèse majesté speech. So the Court ruled that his publication of the information and his comment on those statements did not constitute a lèse majesté crime.

He was also acquitted of the charge under the Computer Crime Act as his comment did not import or confirm any distorted information about the late King’s dog. His Facebook post only involved a question about whether people know Thong Daeng was the late King’s dog, a statement which is a well-known fact.

Thanakorn was also faced charges for two other Facebook posts which the Court also dismissed. The authorities claimed that he posted a diagram which pointed to potential corrupt activities in the construction of Rajabhakti Park by the Thai Royal Army and “liked” a Facebook page which has a photoshopped picture of the late King Bhumibol on the cover.

Maj Gen Burin Thongprapai, the legal representative of the National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO), claimed that posting the diagram was an act of sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code. However, the Court said that a call for transparency in the project was not an act of sedition. Some officers also admitted there was corruption in the project, including Gen Paiboon Khumchaya and Gen Udomdej Sitabutr. So the Court acquitted Thanakorn of the charge.

With regard to liking the problematic Facebook page, an act which put him under lèse-majesté and computer crime charges, the Court said that there was no “following button” on Facebook at the time, so a user had to click “like” to follow a Facebook page.

Clicking “like” to follow the news on a Facebook page in September 2015 was not the same as clicking “like” on an allegedly lèse majesté picture which was posted in December, so the Court acquitted him of the lèse majesté charge.

And since the defendant only followed the page, and did not share it, he did not spread any false information from the page. Facebook may have promoted any public post or pages randomly on anyone’s newsfeed, but it was not Thanakorn’s doing. So the Court also acquitted him of the computer crime charge.

Thanakorn’s court case was concluded after a trial of 5 years. Thanakorn was a factory worker. In 2015, he was arrested by plainclothes officers in Samut Prakan Province. He was not allowed to meet a lawyer or his relatives. Then he was kept in detention for one week in two military camps.

During the last two days of detention at the 11th Military Circle, he said he was hit on the back of the head with a glass bottle while being interrogated about his Facebook post on Rajabhakti Park. He said the glass bottle did not break but he was hurt and feared for his family members.

After his detention, he was transferred to Crime Suppression Division for further investigation by police. Even though the police record said that he “testified voluntarily”, he confirmed that he gave testimony out of fear that he may be detained in a military camp again.

Ilaw’s database says that Thanakorn was detained at the Bangkok Military Court and later given temporary release on bail. Thanakorn confirmed that he was loyal to the monarchy. After he was released from the military court in 2016, he went into the monkhood as an act of devotion to the late King Bhumibol. 

Thanakorn’s case was one of the cases tried in the military court under the NCPO’s Orders after its power seizure in 2014. Thanks to pressure from civil society calling for the putschists to hold an election, the NCPO loosened its grip in 2019 and Thanakorn’s case was transferred to a civilian court.

Source: 
https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/01/91179

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