Student sentenced to jail, denied bail for royal defamation

A Ramkhamhaeng University student has been sentenced to prison on royal defamation charges for allegedly sharing Facebook posts containing misinformation about the King’s health and is currently detained at Bangkok Remand Prison while his bail request is forwarded to the Appeal Court.

Aukit Santiprasitkul (Photo from iLaw)

Aukit Santiprasitkul, 23, a student at the Faculty of Law, Ramkhamhaeng University, was charged with royal defamation and bringing into a computer system data which affects national security under the Computer Crimes Act. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), he was arrested in June 2021 and accused of sharing Facebook posts claiming that King Vajiralongkorn has certain diseases which the inquiry officer said was insulting towards the King.

He was also later accused of sharing 3 other Facebook posts defaming the King, including one which contains a picture of the King and a message saying that “this is this year’s corrupt person,” another which contains a picture of King Bhumibol, Queen Sirikit, and the then-Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn along with a message about family relationships; and another which claimed Queen Suthida had Covid-19.

TLHR reported yesterday (21 December) that the Criminal Court found Aukit guilty of 5 counts of royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act and sentenced him to 3 years in prison on each count. The Court then reduced his sentence to 1 year and 6 months for each count because he confessed, giving him a total prison time of 7 years and 6 months. The Court also did not suspend his sentence on the grounds that even though he has never been sentenced to prison, he committed a serious offense by causing the public to misunderstand the monarchy, damaging their reputation, and inciting hatred of the monarchy.

Aukit’s lawyer then filed a bail request. However, the Court decided that the request must be forwarded to the Appeal Court, which is likely to rule on it within the next few days. In the meantime, Aukit will be detained at Bangkok Remand Prison. 

Aukit is also facing another royal defamation charge for sharing a Facebook post about a protest in front of a hotel in Germany. The charge resulted from a complaint filed against him by Siwapan Manitkul.

Siwapan also filed a royal defamation complaint against Punyaphat (last name withheld), a 29-year-old man with mental illness, who was subsequently sentenced to 12 years in prison for posts he made in the Facebook group Royalist Marketplace about King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida’s popularity and the King’s trips to Germany. According to TLHR, Siwapan has filed at least 9 royal defamation complaints against other citizens for social media posts. 

According to TLHR, at least 225 people are facing royal defamation charges in 243 cases, 129 of which are related to social media activities. Of the 243 cases, 111 resulted from complaints filed by members of the public.

Update: 

TLHR reported on Saturday (24 December) that the Appeal Court denied Aukrit's bail request on the ground that the charges carry a severe penalty and affects public peace and order and national security. 

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