Man sent to prison on royal defamation charge over Facebook posts

Sombat Thongyoi, a former Red Shirt protest guard, has been sentenced to 6 years in prison on charges of royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act over 3 Facebook posts he made in 2020.

Sombat Thongyoi

In December 2020, Sombat was charged with royal defamation for 3 posts he made on his personal Facebook profile in October and November 2020. One of the posts said “Very brave, very good, thank you,” which is a sentence said by King Vajiralongkorn to a protester who raised a portrait of the late King Rama IX at a pro-democracy protest. He also shared a news article which stated that national security officers visited a Thammasat University student after it was reported that all of a faculty’s graduates decided not to join the ceremony.

Another post was made on 2 November 2020 and said that “They told you to reduce the budget you spend, not lower yourself to be close to the people. Did you misunderstand something?” The post continued saying that the person in question tried to get close to the public because they know the public does not want them, and that they were doing so to gain publicity, but it was too late. The post also called the action a “soap opera.”

The third post was also made on 2 November 2020, and said “They’re giving out autographs, just like celebrities. Sarayut Shangwanthong, who filed the complaint against Sombat, claimed the two posts were about the King, since people waiting to greet the King and his entourage at the Equestrian Statue of King Chulalongkorn were allowed to take pictures with him, and some also asked the King to sign his portraits.

The South Bangkok Criminal Court sentenced Sombat on Thursday (28 April) to 6 years in prison on a royal defamation charge under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Codes, and for bringing into a system computer data affecting national security under Article 14 of the Computer Crimes Act.

The Court said that the first post can be considered mockery, since the sentence accompanied the news article, and because Thai society considers the graduation ceremony an honour. The Court also said that such mockery violated Section 6 of the Thai Constitution, which says that the monarch cannot be violated, and that Sombat cannot claim he did not know the King said the sentence because it was widely reported in the media.

For the second post, the Court said that although Sombat said he intended the post to be about the Prime Minister, the phrase “lowering yourself” means to humble oneself and is not used for the Prime Minister. There were also no reports of the Prime Minister making any field visits around the time. The Court also said that it does not accept Sombat’s defense that his third post was not about anyone in particular.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that lawyers requested bail for Sombat using a security of 300,000 baht in order to appeal his case, but the Court said that it would forward the bail request to the Appeal Court. Sombat will be detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison until the Appeal Court rules on his bail request. The order was signed by judge Netdao Manotamkij, Deputy Chief Justice of the South Bangkok Criminal Court.

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