Another ‘Penguin’ message from prison questioning the lèse-majesté law

On 24 February, the Facebook page of Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak released another letter he has written from prison, where he is being held after being denied bail while he awaits trial for lèse majesté. This letter is addressed ‘From the prison to the palace’ and speaks to the king directly.

Right: Parit Chiwarak raising a 3-finger salute before entering the police station. (Source: File photo).

As of 4 March, Parit's latest bail request, fourth in total, submitted by Sureerat Chiwarak, Parit's mother was rejected by the court. The court stated that as long as the circumstance of the case remained unchanged, the decision will not change (Source:Matichon).

The letter questions the surge in Section 112 prosecutions and detention pending trial and whether there has been an order to start enforcing the law again or not. The letter urges the King or Air Chief Marshal Satitpong Sukvimol, the Lord Chamberlain, to clarify the facts in writing within 7 days.

“To King Vajiralongkorn: In the contemporary world, it is a universal principle that an institution or individual who expends the people’s taxes must then be subject to audit and criticism by the people. The Thai monarchy is sustained by the Thai people’s taxes. The Thai people ought to have the right to criticize the monarchy.

“For this reason, Section 112 of the Criminal Code, which forbids criticism of the monarchy and stipulates a severe punishment, as if criticism was a dreadful crime, is a barbaric law in the eyes of many countries and the Thai people themselves. The use of this law both silences the Thai people and degrades the reputation of the monarchy.”

In the letter, Parit concerned that the implementation of Section 112 may be condemned and criticize by the global community, which may affect his return to  Germany.

Parit has been detained in Bangkok Remand Prison since 9 February along with Anon Nampa, Patiwat Saraiyaem, and Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, other prominent pro-democracy activists during series of protests since the beginning of 2020.

The detentions were ordered pending trial on royal defamation and sedition charges relating to the 19-20 September 2020 protests. Parit is also charged with royal defamation for a speech given at the protest at the Democracy Monument on 14 November 2020.

The Court has denied every bail request, 3 in total as of 2 March, using the same grounds as previous court orders – because they are likely to repeat the offences – and there is no reason to change existing orders.

The international community has criticized the implementation of lèse majesté law due to its lengthy jail sentences, wide range of interpretation and low rate of bail granted, where many suspects end up being jailed during the trial, defying the legal presumption of innocence.

Despite being jailed and prevented from using a mobile phone and the internet, Anon’s Facebook account and Parit’s page are somehow able to post messages, claiming to be from themselves. These facts have already stirred an investigation to find out who is using their accounts.

According to the Bangkok Post, on 25 February, Thanakrit Jitareerat, Secretary to Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, and a legal team representing the Department of Corrections has filed a complaint to the Technology Crime Suppression Division police to investigate Penguin and Anon’s letters and to find out who else is involved.

Thanakrit stated that Parit’s message to the Palace sparked an outcry among those loyal to the monarchy.

Aryut Sinthopphan, Director-General of the Department of Corrections, has ordered a panel to investigate whether Parit was directly involved in the Facebook posting or not. If so, further legal action will be taken against him.

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

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (THLR), at least 58 people have been charged under Section 112 in 44 cases in relation to the protests since July 2020. 23 cases were filed by ordinary citizens, 3 by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society and the rest by the police.

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