On Monday (7 November), the Criminal Court dismissed a sedition charge filed against 8 people linked to a Facebook page mocking NCPO leaders on the grounds that they were merely exercising their democratic rights and freedoms.
One of the edited pictures from the Facebook page
Supachai Saibutr, Natthika Worathaiwich, Noppakao Kongsuwan, Thonnawat Buranasiri, Yothin Mangkangsanga, Worawit Saksamutnan, Kannasit Tangboonthina, and Harit Mahaton were charged with sedition for allegedly running a Facebook satire page called ‘We Love General Prayut,’ which mocked the leaders of the 2014 military coup.
Between November 2015 – 7 April 2016, they also used the Facebook page to post an edited picture of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, leaders of the NCPO, while inviting people to join an anti-junta gathering at Thammasat University. The picture involved the faces of Gen Prayut and Gen Prawit being placed onto floating flower and banana leaf baskets used during Loy Krathong Festival.
They were abducted by the military on 27 April 2016 and taken to a detention facility in the 11th Military Circle, Bangkok. They were released on 10 May 2016, but Natthika and Harit were immediately detained again on a royal defamation charge after they were accused of sending messages deemed defamatory to the Thai monarchy in their private Facebook chat. They were released in July 2016.
On Monday (7 November), the Criminal Court dismissed the sedition charge against all 8 defendants on the grounds that, despite using inappropriate language in their post, they did not intend to incite people to violate the law or the Constitution. As the gathering in question was also a peaceful protest by unarmed people, the Court concluded that the defendants were simply exercising their rights and freedoms in a democratic society by expressing opinions which differed from those of the government and dismissed the case.
Earlier, on 15 March 2022, the Criminal Court also dismissed the royal defamation charge against Harit on the grounds that it could not rely on the testimony of Maj Gen Wicharn Jodtaeng, former Chief of the NCPO’s legal office, because he offered little more than hearsay evidence.
Natthika is currently living in exile in the US, so the court has temporarily disposed of both charges against her.
The case was initially handled by a military court, since the defendants were arrested and charged during the NCPO government. Following the repeal of several NCPO orders in July 2019, their case was transferred to the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court.