The Appeal Court on 26 January found Pholawat Warodomputthikul, 28, a former technician in Rayong, guilty under the sedition law for distributing leaflets expressing opposition to the 2014 coup.
According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Pholawat was sentenced to 4 months in prison. However, since the defendant has never been sentenced to jail before and a prison sentence would worsen his criminal record, the court commuted the prison sentence to 2 years on parole.
The leaflets contained the message “Wake up!!! and stand up to fight already ... Everyone who loves democracy ... Dictators shall fall. Long live democracy,” with an image of the three-finger salute, with the message “Liberty, equality, fraternity, oppose the coup.”
Many leaflets were distributed in Rayong province, which, the court ruled, showed the intention to rally people who share Pholawat’s political ideas to oppose the government led by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the head of the junta which had seized power. The action might cause disorder or violence among people to the point that it may have caused unrest in the country, and does not constitute honest criticism, according to the court.
The verdict noted that the 2014 Interim Constitution ensured rights, liberty, equality and human dignity in line with a democratic constitutional monarchy and international norms, but the rights and liberty must be exercised in line with the law, especially the criminal code. If individuals do not respect the law, it may cause disorder and cause people to suffer in terms of the economy and security.
Additionally, according to the ruling, the defendant testified that he scattered the leaflets out of anger because those who shared his views in Bang Saen, Chonburi Province, had been arrested and detained for “attitude adjustment”. (It was the practice of the junta to detain and interrogate people in military camps without charge or trial.) This, according to the court, indicated that the action had been taken without careful thought.
Pholawat and lawyer are seeking to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
Pholawat was prosecuted under Section 116 of the Criminal Code (the sedition law) and the Computer Crime Act. He was arrested by soldiers and police officers on 27 March 2014 after he left A4-sized leaflets scattered in 4 places around Rayong.
At the time, the junta’s martial law was still in force, and a number of junta orders prohibited public gatherings and the expression of negative views on the coup and the junta. Political activities were banned, and the media were pressured not to criticize the coupmakers. More than 1,000 people were taken to military camps for “attitude adjustment”.