Woman gets 6 years for royal defamation

A 26-year-old woman was sentenced on 2 August to 6 years in prison for royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act for Facebook posts and comments made in late January 2021.

(Picture from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights)

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that the Narathiwat Provincial Court has ruled that Kanlaya (pseudonym), a 26-year-old private company employee from Nonthaburi, is guilty of royal defamation under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code and bringing into a computer system data which affects national security under Section 14, paragraph 3 of the Computer Crimes Act, and sentenced her to 6 years in prison.

Kanlaya told the Court during her trial that she did not post the messages, and that her Facebook account is accessible by more than one person. The evidence provided by the plaintiff included made up screenshots without a URL or a date and time of the posts, so they could have been edited, while each post could be interpreted widely if read separately and mentioned no one by name.

However, the Court ruled that she was guilty because she testified during the police inquiry process that her former partner used to be able to access her Facebook account, but she changed the password after they broke up in December 2020, so it is believable that she was the one using the account.

The Court also ruled that the messages combined with the movement for monarchy reform can be interpreted to be referring to King Vajiralongkorn, and that they are intended to cause hatred against the King, affecting national security.

The complaint against Kanlaya was filed by Phasit Chanhuaton, who TLHR says has filed royal defamation complaints with the police in Sungai Kolok against at least 20 people, none of whom lives in Narathiwat,. TLHR said that Kanlaya had to spend as much as 15,000 baht to travel to Sungai Kolok when she was summoned, since she had to fly to Hat Yai before driving to Sungai Kolok.

TLHR also noted that cases like Kanlaya’s reflect how problematic the royal defamation law is, since complaints can be filed by anyone anywhere, meaning that defendants like Kanlaya not only have to go through the trial process but also have to shoulder the financial burden of traveling to report to the police and attend court appointments. 

Phasit also filed a complaint against Udom (pseudonym), a 34-year-old man from Prachinburi who works in an electronic component factory who was sentenced last week to 6 years in prison for royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act.

The complaint against Kanlaya concerned a number of Facebook posts and comments about the King and the 2020 – 2021 pro-democracy protests. iLaw reported that one of the comments was made on a Facebook post about the film The Treacherous, a Korean period drama film about a tyrannical king, which caused another Facebook user to accuse Kanlaya of insulting King Vajiralongkorn, so her friends argued with the person to defend her. She speculated that the user was not happy with what happened and started collecting information from her Facebook page before filing charges against her.

Another post was a picture Kanlaya took during a protest at Wongwian Yai on 17 October 2020 of a message sprayed-painted onto the road. She was also charged for sharing posts made by exiled academic Somsak Jeamteerasakul and activist Tanawat Wongchai and adding comments to them.

Kanlaya was granted bail in order to appeal her case on a security of 50,000 baht in addition to the original 150,000 baht filed when she was indicted. Her bail is covered by the Will of the People Fund, a bail fund for those facing charges for participating in pro-democracy protests.

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