3rd lèse majesté case against 80-year-old writer dropped

A court has found not guilty Bundit Aneeya, an 80-year-old writer and translator in his third lèse majesté trial. The court ruled that his allegedly criminal comment made in public in 2015 did not directly refer to the monarch. His comment could be interpreted in many ways.

Bundit leaving the Criminal Court (Source: Banrasdr Photo)

The comment that led to the trial was made during a public panel discussion "Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand B.E.?" at Thammasat University in 2015: "The value of humanity and dignity of humanity of the Thai people nationwide, must be higher than the dust under somebody's feet ...".

The trial was based on the expression “dust under somebody’s feet” (ฝุ่นใต้เท้าใคร fun tai thao khrai). The military prosecutor on 7 February 2017 alleged that it is a reference to the royal language used in designating the king or queen.  (Commoners refer to themselves in relation to the king and queen as being ‘below the dust under their feet’.)  The defendant did not refer directly to the late King Rama IX. Thus, his comment can be interpreted in many ways.

Bundit testified that his comment was intended to mean that all Thais have equal dignity. He referred to a book written by Duen Boonnak (1905-1982, a legal scholar) who stated that the Chinese were selfish. When they wanted to gain benefit from someone, they would call them tai thao, nai thao (ใต้เท้า นายเท้า), referring to them as someone hierarchically higher.

After the trial, Bundit said the not guilty verdict is proof that justice still exists in Thailand. This is the thing that must be cherished. Unity is what the land needs the most, and also speaking the truth. Bundit said he will live to be 121.

After finishing the interview, Bundit went off to hospital to have his high blood pressure treated.

According to iLaw, representatives from the embassies of Spain, Finland, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Poland and the European Union (EU) delegate to Thailand attended the court hearing.

Bundit is a writer and independent translator whose works satirically reflect injustice in society. In his old age, he can usually be seen selling goods like tote bags, books or T-shirts at public panels or protests.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, in 2003 he was sued by Pol Gen Wassana Permlarp, then an Election Commissioner, over the content of his books. The court found him guilty and sentenced him to 4 years in jail. This was later reduced to 3 years on parole due to his psychosis, old age and the fact that this was his first conviction. He spent 98 days in prison before being released.

In 2014 after the coup, Bundit made a comment at a public panel discussion held by the Thai Innovation Party. He was stopped right in the middle of his comment after he said "monarchy regime" and immediately arrested by the police and military personnel. He spent 6 years on trial before the court found him not guilty because the evidence of his wrongdoing was unclear.

Source: 
prachatai.com/journal/2021/01/91367

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