Chanwit: A Leaflet and the Endurance of Ideology

 
 
Although Chanwit turned 60 in 2015, he was still as attuned to politics as he had been as a  young man. He jointed the October 1973 and October 1976 movements and struggled until he lost his liberty. In 2015, Chanwit once again lost his liberty when a leaflet he distributed during a political demonstration in 2007 at the Nonthaburi pier was deemed to fall within the scope of lèse majesté under Article 112 of the Criminal Code. 
 
Chanwit is from Phatthalung province. After finishing secondary school at Mahavajiravudh Songkhla School in 1973, he entered the Faculty of Medical Technology at Chiang Mai University. But he withdrew in his third year to seek treatment for anxiety and did not complete his degree.
 
Chanwit has a long-standing interest in politics and involvement in civil society movements. He was part of the student movement in 14 October 1973 and he was imprisoned after 6 October 1976 by the Chiang Mai provincial court.
 
After he left prison in 1977, he joined the movement of the Northern Student Centre and the Communist Party of Thailand. Chanwit explained that at the time, he wanted to transform Thailand into a democracy with the king under a constitution.
 
After the government of General Prem Tinsulanond issued Order 66/2523, providing amnesty to those who joined the Communist movement who were willing to surrender, Chanwit ceased his involvement in politics. 
 
In May 1992, Chanwit again participated in a political movement. He joined in making the demand for an elected prime minister. This resulted in his arrest and detention in Khlong Prem Prison for three days. In 1996, Chanwit joined the Constitution Drafting Assembly to help draft the 1997 Constitution, before taking up the work of following parliamentary legal developments for the State Enterprises Workers’ Relation Confederation (SERC).
 
After the 2006 coup, Chanwit made a leaflet about the Thai political situation as one undergoing transition. He made and distributed the leaflet because he wanted the intention of the People’s Party — for a monarchy under a democratic constitution — to become real.
 
The leaflet that Chanwit distributed was five pages long. At least thirteen individuals among the royal family, politicians, and other important figures were mentioned, including General Prem Tinsulanond, the chair of the Privy Council, and former prime minister Police Lieutenant Colonel Thaksin Shinawatra. The leaflet was in the form of an astrological forecast that analyzed the behavior of various individuals and linked it to their fates.
 
The leaflet was behind Chanwit being prosecuted under Article 112 in 2008. While the case was ongoing, Chanwit was granted bail. But when he failed to make a court appearance, he became a suspect who fled and a warrant for his arrest was issued. 
 
In March 2015, there was a bomb explosion at the Criminal Court and Chanwit was listed as a suspect. He was arrested on 9 March 2015 in Samut Prakan province. Before he was arrested, he had spoken on the topic of democracy for a group of citizens in Khon Kaen province and often distributed leaflets in order to spread ideas on various topics. 
 
In the bomb case, in addition to the two people who were arrested at the scene and confessed to setting off the bomb, Chanwit and at least twenty other people in the same Line [social media chat platform--trans.] group were arrested by police and military officials. The majority denied the accusations. Only one person was granted bail.
 
While Chanwit was detained in relation to the Criminal Court bomb, the police picked up the Article 112 case against him, which had been temporarily suspended for over seven years.
 
When he was interrogated in the Nonthaburi provincial court in September 2015, Chanwit testified that, “I want the monarchy institution to have increased security as stated in this document” and “I only approximated the situation during the period of transition.” 
 
From that one set of leaflets, the prosecutor charged Chanwit with four counts of violation of Article 112. He was accused of defaming: 1) the king; 2) the queen; 3) the prince; and 4) the princess. Chanwit told the court that he approximated and analyzed in line with the social science and astrological principles that he had studied. He did not view the leaflet as defamatory, but rather aimed to make the institution more secure, such as in line with the Japanese model. Some of the information [he drew on] came from documents from the funeral volume of Lieutenant Colonel Narongdetch Nanthaphotdetch and he then combined it information from other sources.
 
Chanwit contested the point about who was covered by the category “heir-apparent” in Article 112. He noted that Article 112 protects the king, queen, and the heir-apparent, and the palace law stipulates that the heir-apparent can only be male. Therefore, Article 112 does not extend to cover the princess as charged by the plaintiff.
 
Chanwit explained his purpose in making and distributing the leaflet to the court: “Distributing leaflets is a type of political activity. I am a citizen and so therefore must propose ideas to society. I should not be motionless.”
 
When asked about his family and his ideas, Chanwit said, “I do not have a family. I have always lived alone.” After the questioning was complete, Chanwit asked to shake hands with everyone who came to the court to observe his case as a show of solidarity. When his friends asked about the situation inside the prison, he said, “It is okay. Inside and outside [the prison] are not that different. The only difference is the size of the bars.” At the time of writing [the original article was published in Thai in late May 2015—trans.], Chanwit had been detained in the Bangkok Remand Prison for more than eight months and still awaited the proceedings for the Criminal Court bomb case to begin in the military court.
 

 

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