August 2015: Record-Breaking of lèse majesté cases and the bombing predictor arrested.

Period
22 May 2014 – 30 August 2015
August 2015

Number of individuals summoned

782 5
Number of individuals arrested 479 4
Arrests at peaceful demonstrations 209 -
Individuals prosecuted before military court 144 -
Individuals prosecuted before civilian court 47 1
Number of individuals charged with lese majeste offense (Article 112) 53 -
 
Number of individuals detained under lese majeste charge 46
 
 
Section 112 Cases: the military court sentenced 2 defendants, altogether 116 years’ imprisonment on the same day, before reducing due to defendants pleaded guilty.  
 
August 2015 might have been the most actively aggressive month related to Section 112 cases. It was because in one week alone, the military court sentenced 3 cases. 2 of which made a worldwide headline. The military court sentenced the defendants 60 years and 56 years’ imprisonment, prior to the reduction by half to both of them, due to their confession.    
 
 

311


6 August 2015. Chiang Rai Provincial Military Court sentenced Samak, a man from Chinag Rai Province, who had a record of mental illness treatment, for a lese majeste crime to 10 years imprisonment. Samak confessed that he used a knife to damage the royal portrait, according to the plaintiff’s accusation. The court reduced half of the sentence to 5 years.  
 
Samak has been imprisoned without a bail since July 2014, because he had no security. In December 2014 the court scheduled for testimony. The defendant’s lawyer stated that Samak pleaded guilty. But he had committed because he couldn’t control himself and he had been treated for mental illness. The lawyer asked the court to suspend the sentence. The military prosecutor objected the lawyer’s plead and asked to examine witnesses to prove that the defendant was conscious while committing it. Examination of witnesses was a long process because the court only scheduled once a month and the plaintiff’s witnesses didn’t turn up. The examination had to be postponed for 3 times. In July 2015, Samak decided to change his testimony. He had pleaded not guilty, but committed because he couldn’t control himself and had a mental illness. He then confessed all charges because he wanted the verdict pronounced quickly. Samak’s case happened during the martial law was imposed. The military court’s judgement was final, and cannot be appealed.                   
 
7 August 2015. Bangkok military court scheduled for Pongsak’s case testimony. Pongsak was accused of posting 6 messages on Facebook that deemed defaming the king. The court thought that the messages were sentimental and could affect the royal institute. The judges ordered the proceeding to be held in camara. Pongsak confessed that he posted all messages. The court’s decision was pronounced on the same day. According to the Criminal Code Section 112, the sentence was for 6 counts, each carried 10 years’ imprisonment, and altogether 60 years’ imprisonment. Pongsak confessed. The court reduced half of the sentence to 30 years.
 
Pongsak was arrested at the bus terminal of Phitsanulok Province on 30 December 2014. It was when he came from Nakhon Ratchasima Province to meet a Facebook acquaintance, whom Pongsak believed had tricked him into the arrest. 
 
 
312
An illustration of Sasiwimon holding her two daughters in court.
 
On the same day, Chiang Mai Provincial Military Court scheduled for the first plaintiff’s witness examination of Sasiwimon’s case. Sasiwimon was accused of posting 7 messages on Facebook that deemed defaming the king. Prior to examining the witness, Sasiwomon changed her pleading and confessed. The judgement was immediately rendered. According to the Criminal Code Section 112, Sasiwimon was sentenced 8 years on 7 counts, the total of a 56-year prison term. The defendant pleaded guilty, the court then reduced half of the sentence to 28 years.
 
Sasiwimon’s case started in February 2015. It was when a group of Facebook users in Chinag Mai Province filed a complaint to the inquiry official. The report was about a Facebook user, named “Rungnapa Kampichai” had posted inappropriate messages in December 2014. The police force searched Sasiwimon’s house and seized her computer and mobile phone for investigation. Sasiwimon was arrested and charged in February 2015, and had never been released on bail until the court’s judgement.    
 
The final judgements on 7 August 2015 of both Bangkok Military Court and Chiang Mai Provincial Military Court were a severe punishment. Many international news agencies reported these cases. Many western countries criticized. For instance the US Government stated that US highly respected the institute. But the punishment of those who peacefully expressed their opinions was improper. UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR), Geneva, was also concerned about the enforcement of the Criminal Code, Section 112. They stated that the social and political situations after May 2014, Section 112 cases have surged significantly. They called for the Government of Thailand to exercise this law according to international human rights standard.       
 
 
13 August 2015. The Supreme Court decided to dismiss Surapak’s case. Surapak was accused of posting 2 messages on Facebook that deemed defaming the king. On the day, the court told the press who were waiting that the detail of the judgement could not be pronounced, and it could be a repeated criminal offense. After that the court rendered the judgement and the whole process took only 1 – 2 minutes.    
 
313
 
Surapak gave an interview in front of the Criminal Court after the Supreme Court dismissed his case.  
 
Surapak was arrested in September 2011. He was detained at Bangkok Remand Prison while defending the case without being released. He was released after the Criminal Court dismissed the case in October 2012 due to the plaintiff’s evidence appeared to be false. After the court of first instance pronounced the judgement, the plaintiff’s prosecutor pleaded the court of appeal, who also dismissed the case in March 2014. From iLaw’s observation, Surapak’s case was the first Section 112 case that has been dismissed by all three courts.   
 
Two more arrested after false claiming the royal institute.
 
20 August 2015. The police personnel announced the arrests of Kittipob and Wiset, who had been accused of making false claims of them being related to the royal family. The pair approached a temple abbot and claimed that they could invite members of the royal family to participate in religious events at the temple. They also claimed that they had collected donations for building Buddhist temples. At first the suspects denied charges.   
 
In August, no new arrests were made for Section 112 suspects from expressing the opinions. After the coup, 53 people have been prosecuted according to the Section 112 of the criminal code for expressing their opinions. And 46 people are now detained.  
 
Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police urged the Technology Crime Suspension Division (TCSD) to monitor negative messages concerned with Bike for Mom activity. 
  
16 August 2015. There was a bicycles riding event in honour of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s birthday, titled “Bike for Mom”. The activity received both positive and negative criticism on social media. On 17 August, Pol. Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung, Commissioner General, informed that since there had been negative criticism, he ordered TCSD to investigate whether those messages were within the scope of an offence.         
 
 
Ratchaprasong Bombing Incident led to the arrest of a suspects who had predicted it, and a Hong Kong journalist who took a bulletproof vest.    
 
17 August 2015. Around 19.00 hrs, there was an explosion at the Ratchaprasong intersection. It was placed inside the Erawan Shrine, which was crowded with Thais and foreign nationals. It took at least 12 lives at the scene, and later on 20 August the death toll could have reached 20.   
 
Although there is no conclusion of people being responsible for the attack, there was a widespread of criticism online. The police have summoned a number of people who had expressed their opinions on the internet. On 19 August, Pol. Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung, Commissioner General, warned the internet users to be cautious when posting false messages that could cause social unrest. This is because they would be prosecuted according to Computer Crime Act. Furthermore he wanted 5 – 10 people to be prosecuted as an example.          
 
On the same day, the Police Commissioner General stated that the police personnel brought Wichawej, aka, Pongphop, a male suspect of posting the bombing prediction, to a press conference. Wichawej admitted that he had posted the message, but he didn’t write it. He had copied it from another Facebook page. He didn’t mean to cause panic, but wanted to warn others. The officials didn’t charge Wichawej, but rather searched his house and looked into electrical devices such as his computer.    
 
 
314
 
A press conference was held at TCSD by Police officers and Wichawej (man in grey) a suspect accused of
posting the bombing prediction. Wichawej hasn’t been charged initially.     
 
Apart from Wichawej at least 3 people were arrested for publishing messages. It was reported that on 22 August 2015 army personnel arrested Pol. Lt. Pongsart a Samre Metropolitan Police Station investigator, for questioning at a military camp. It was because Pol. Lt. Pongsart posted a message on 15 August that some disaster was about to take place. While police officers of Ayutthaya Police Station questioned a 17 year-old male student, who posted a message threatening bombing in 5 locations. The student could face prosecution for maliciously circulating false information, by which act can cause the public panic under Computer Crimes Act.        
 
23 September 2015. Police officers of Provincial Police Region 7 made a statement on the arrest of a suspect, 19 year-old Thannatorn, of the arrest warrant issued by Suphanburi Provincial Court. The suspect was accused of maliciously circulating false information, , by which act can cause the public panicunder Computer Crimes Act. Thannatorn was accused of posting foreign nationals’ photos and informed that they could be terrorists planting bombs in Suphanburi Province. On 25 August, Thannatorn was brought to Suphanburi Provincial Court for the first provisional detention. The court approved the detention, and bailing out wasn’t allowed because the case carried a severe punishment and they were afraid that the suspect could flee. And the inquiry official opposed the bail.                    
 
Apart from prosecutions of those who published messages about the bombing predictions, there was another interesting case in regard to this incident. It was the arrest of a Hong Kong journalist, Anthony Hok-chun, for allegedly carrying a bulletproof vest while leaving at the airport. Anthony came from Hong Kong to report on the Ratchaprasong Intersection Bombing Incident. He also brought the vest for protection when were at the scene. Anthony was arrested while leaving for Hong Kong because he had the vest with him. Bulletproof vests are military equipment under Thai law. Those who are not army personnel, police, or hold a licence will be punished if owned them. Anthony was detained at Samut Prakan Provincial Court prior to releasing on bail. His passport was withheld and he couldn’t leave Thailand. 
 
 

Politician criticising the Government “were called to army camp”. While the army visited academics’ and activists’ places “as usual”.

Pichai Naripthaphan, a former Minister of Energy and a Pheu Thai Party leader, informed that at 10.30 hrs, on 11 August 2015, he was summoned to 1st Army Area. He was questioned about attending a public meeting titled “Who cares?, If I use fallacy.” on Saturday 8 August. Pichai added that the conversation went on smoothly, and the army personnel asked for his cooperation on stop criticising the Government.   
 
315
 
 The army visited Same Sky Books Publisher Office on 25 August 2015. They said that they came for “a normal introduction”. (Photo from Thanapol Eawsakul’s Facebook).  
 

Same Sky Books’ Facebook posted a message read; on 15.00 hrs. on 7 August 2015, army personnel from 5th Anti-Aircraft Artillery, Laksi, came to buy some magazines. Later on 25 August 2015, Thanapol Eawsakul, Same Sky Books editor, posted on his Facebook that around 13.45 hrs. 5 army personnel from 5th Anti-Aircraft Artillery, Quartermaster Department Royal Thai Army, visited the office. They said that they came to introduce themselves as usual. It was because their forces and duties were replaced.
 

8 August 2015. Surapot Taweesak, posted a message read; the army visited. It was their shift to meet designated people. There was nothing in particular. Surapot said that it was their 4th visits. Surapot is an academic, who criticises political and social issues on his Facebook.   
 

26 August 2015. Pansak Srithep, a “Resistant Citizen” activist, who was prosecuted for “My Dear Election” and "March for Justice" events, posted on Facebook around 11.50 hrs. read; “it was a normal visit”, the chief of a four-staff squad said. It was presumed that army personnel visited his place.     
 

Another one was Surapak, a former defendant of the Section 112 case, who was summoned by NCPO’s Order No. 44. Surapak wrote on his Facebook on 25 August that he was contacted by army personnel from Bueng Kan Province. There was an order from the chain of command in Udon Thani Province. The order was for Surapak to report to the army and to sign a memorandum of agreement. Surapak informed the local army personnel that he had been summoned by NCPO, and an agreement had already been signed. Surapak hadn’t committed any wrongdoing since. If the army wanted him to report again, then he would go to the Headquarters. This was because he had been engaged in many issues, and wasn’t able to travel to his hometown. Later on 26 August, Surapak posted on his Facebook in regard to the summons. He wrote that after sending all evidence of his summons, the army from Udon Thani Province informed him that there was no need to report again.          
 
As of August 2015, at least 5 people were summoned, or their places were visited by the army personnel. Therefore since the 2014 coup, at least 782 people have been summoned or their places have been visited by the army personnel.
 

Other Prosecutions of Political Accusations 

Other than the prosecutions of Section 112 cases and those who posted the bombing prediction, August had other interesting cases concerning Freedom of Expression as follows;    
 
Around 22.00 hrs., on 15 August, Songtham Kaewpanpruek, a member of New Democracy Movement, who got an arrest warrant for violating NCPO Order No. 3/2558 (2015) for a rally in front of Bangkok Art and Culture Centre on 22 May 2015, was arrested at Don Mueang International Airport after arriving from Malaysia. After the arrest Songtham was detained at Pathumwan Metro Police Station for 1 night, prior to the questioning in the morning of 16 August. Songtham denied all charges and wanted to defend the legal case in court. At noon, Songtham was released without security being surrendered. The inquiry official scheduled Songtham to report on 16 September and to take him to the prosecutor.             
 
 
316
 
Rinda was accused of posting a message about the Prime Minister, allegedly transferred a great amount of money to Singapore (Photo from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights
 
26 August 2015. The military prosecutor agreed to prosecute Rinda, who was accused of posting a message about Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Prime Minister and the Head of NCPO, allegedly transferred a great amount of money to Singapore. The accusation was related to the Criminal Code, Section 116; to raise unrest and disaffection amongst the people in a manner likely to cause disturbance in the country, Section 384 of Computer Crime Act; to alarm the public by maliciously circulating false rumors. Bangkok Military Court granted Rinda a temporaly release with 100,000-Baht cash as a guarantee. 
 
 

Assemblies and Public Activities were blocked. The Army told youth camp organiser that without permission, they could be charged under Public Assembly Act.    

 
6 August 2015. People of Khon Kaen Province didn’t agree with the closure of the bus terminal 1. They gathered and protested against moving buses to the bus terminal 3, which was far away from the city centre. At the rally there were tens of army personnel observing the situation. While one protester was addressing, one personnel talked through a megaphone stating that if they weren’t happy with the change they had to send a representative to negotiate. If they still protested the security officers would have to enforce Section 44 to deal with the situation.  
 
7 August 2015. uniform and plainclothes police officers observed singing up for new members of the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy (LLTD), at an event titled “Opening the World of Activities”, Thammasat University Rangsit Campus. The officers said that there was an order to observe and took pictures of the activities. The group was afraid that the students who wanted to join up would feel anxious about the officers.   
 
24 August 2015. The Environment Conservation Group of Nong Yai Village, Nong Kung Si District, Kalasin Province, came to Nong Kung Si District Office to hand a letter asking a permission to view a video of “Perd Pom” TV programme, episode “Isan Petroleum Exposed”. On the night of 23 August 2015, which the Group was projecting the video, some police officers asked them to stop claiming that it could be a violation of copyright law, and asked to get permission from the District Office first.    
 
26 August 2015. The New Generation for Social Change Group wrote on the Facebook to inform that the Group had organised a youth camp during 28 – 30 August in Wang Saphung Districe, Loei Province, which was the area that the local were facing gold mining problems. It turned out that the army personnel contacted the local and the temple, the camping site. The army wanted to know details of the activity, and asked whether it had been permitted. If not, they could be charged according to the Public Assembly Act.    
 
 

 

 

Report type: