Novice monk receives summons on royal defamation charge

Saharat Sukkhamla, a novice monk who has often attended protests, has received a summons from Pathumwan Police Station on a royal defamation charge relating to a speech he gave at a protest on 21 November 2020.

Saharat Sukkhamla (Center, in monk's robe) at a protest in October 2020 (Picture from Saharat's Facebook page)

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported on Monday (5 July) that Saharat received a summons on a royal defamation charge under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. The summons states that the complaint against him was filed by Ratthanaphak Suwannarat, and that Saharat must report to Pathumwan Police Station on 12 July at 10.00.

TLHR said that the charge was related to a speech Saharat gave at a protest organized by the students’ rights group Bad Student on 21 November 2020.

Voice TV reported that on 25 February 2021, special branch police officers tried to disrobe Saharat, claiming a consensus of the Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand, the main governing body of the Buddhist order in Thailand, and an announcement from the National Office of Buddhism. The officers claimed that Saharat’s actions insulted the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, who is the head of the order of Buddhist monks, and that he caused conflict within the order.

According to Voice TV, special branch police officers and a representative from the National Office of Buddhism were waiting for Saharat in front of his residence, and left after they were unable to find him.

At least 103 people have been charged under Section 112 in 100 cases since November 2020, 8 of whom are under 18 years old. According to TLHR, 46 of the cases resulted from complaints filed by members of the public. Saharat is apparently the first monk charged under Section 112.

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