63-year-old woman sentenced to 43 years in jail on 29 lèse majesté offences

Anchan (pseudonym), 63, found guilty under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, has been sentenced to 87 years in prison, with the sentence reduced because of her confession and 3 years spent in prison pending her trial. The net sentence is 43 years and 6 months, the longest sentence ever under Section 112.

Right: Anchan (Source: iLaw)

Anchan was arrested in 2015, then charged and tried for 29 offences arising from sharing 29 videos with content adjudged to defame the monarchy. Charges were brought under the lèse majesté law and the Computer Crime Act, but as the offences violated more than one law, the court ruled on the most serious offence, which is lèse majesté.

Anchan’s lawyer has filed an appeal and requested bail with 1 million baht as security. The court has submitted the request to the appeal court. Anchan is now detained in the Central Women Correctional Institution, awaiting the court’s decision.

Anchan's case is part of the state crackdown over an online group which Hassadin Uraipraiwan or 'DJ Banpodj' hosted on his online radio programme. 

At least 16 people related to the group were arrested, and all were detained in a military camp, prohibited from meeting relatives and lawyers, before they were passed into police custody. Anchan’s trial was originally heard by a military court and then transferred to a civilian court.

This case is not a by-the-book process of law enforcement in Thailand, yet was legitimized by the NCPO junta when the military authorized themselves to intervene in 'national security-related issues,' which many times were given a wide interpretation.

Section 112 of the Criminal Code criminalizes individuals who defame or express hostility to the King, the Queen, the Heir Apparent and the Regent. It carries a 3-15 year jail sentence.

As of 19 January, at least 54 people have been charged or summoned by the police to hear the Section 112 charges within the last few weeks. None have yet made their way to court.

In the rise of the pro-democracy movement since July 2020, calling for the government’s resignation, constitutional amendments and monarchy reform, criticism of the monarchy has become a topic of public discussion as never before. Section 112 has recently again been widely used against protesters with a wide range of interpretation after an informal moratorium that began in 2018.

The lèse majesté law in Thailand has a long history. It had taken many forms, and it became Section 112 of the Criminal Code in the 1950s when Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat staged a military coup and began the restoration of the monarchy’s status to keep communism at bay. The penalty was increased to 15 years with a minimum of 3 years after the massacre of student activists in the 6 October incident of 1976 by Thanin Kraivichien, then Prime Minister and later Privy Councillor.

The enforcement of Section 112 has been controversial and problematic over the wide range of interpretations over what should be counted as defamation or expression of hostility toward those protected by the law.

As the law is part of the section of the Criminal Code dealing with offences against national security, it is open for anyone who believes an offence has been committed to file a complaint with the police. It has also been difficult for those accused to receive bail. Most defendants have been remanded  in prison pending their trial.

Source: 
https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/01/91270

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