Skip to main content

A 60-year-old man from Phuket has been sentenced today (26 June) to 9 years in prison, suspended for 2 years, on a royal defamation charge over several Facebook posts made in 2021.

Phong (pseudonym) was arrested at his home in Phuket on 20 January 2022 on charges of royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act over 6 Facebook posts about the monarchy made in October and November 2021.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said he was arrested by at least 22 officers from local police stations and the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD). They also searched his apartment and confiscated his mobile phone, laptop, external hard drive, and a piece of paper containing some song lyrics. Pong could not contact his relatives or a lawyer because his devices had been taken.

Phong was then transferred to Thung Song Hong Police Station in Bangkok, where he was detained overnight before being taken to the TCSD headquarters. A lawyer met him while detained at TCSD, where he was told that he was accused of owning a Facebook profile page containing 6 posts defaming the monarchy, after a complaint was filed by Kanbongkot Mekhapraphatsakun, a member of the ultra-royalist group People’s Centre to Protect the Monarchy.

Kanbongkotch previously filed royal defamation complaints against several activists, including Shinawat Chankrajang, Weha Saenchonchanasuk, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Niraphorn Onkhao, and Benja Apan.

Phong was initially denied bail and detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison for three days before being released.

TLHR said that the Criminal Court today (26 June) sentenced him to a total of 18 years in prison on 6 counts of royal defamation. The sentence was reduced to 9 years and suspended for 2 years because he confessed during witness examination. He is also required to report to a probation officer 3 times within a 2-year period and perform 24 hours of community service.

The judge told him that the court is giving him a chance, so he should not repeat his offence, and that the probation officer will also put him in a training session about the monarchy.

Phong told TLHR in an interview that he moved to Phuket in 2004, and has had several jobs, from being a driver and working at a local printer to working for a local newspaper. He has no family and lives alone after separating from his partner.

The 60-year-old said that although he used to join the Yellow Shirt protests in Bangkok, he did not join any protest in Phuket. When the student-led protests began in 2020, he began showing support on social media, but said he did not say anything radical until the authorities began using violence against the protesters.

Phong said he began searching for information and raising questions about the monarchy after conversations about monarchy reform became more common on social media.

Phong lost his job as a driver shortly before getting arrested, and had to move closer to Bangkok after being charged. For a time, he lived in Kanchanaburi, where he worked with a lawyer friend. He now works as a taxi driver.

He said he was not too stressed or pressured from being prosecuted, as he is supported by his religious beliefs, which made him feel that there is nothing beyond expectation.

“I’m a Christian. I believe in God, so I pray and talk to God. I feel comforted by my beliefs. I’m not pressured. I don’t feel like I need to make a scene or oppose society more,” he said.

Phong feels that the royal defamation law is problematic in how it’s both written and used, and that it causes conflict because it does not deliver justice. He believes that although the former opposition parties won the election, there will still be conflict. Nevertheless, he said he is happy that the Move Forward Party won and feels that it is not too difficult for them to form a government.

Prachatai English's Logo

Prachatai English is an independent, non-profit news outlet committed to covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite pressure from the authorities. Your support will ensure that we stay a professional media source and be able to meet the challenges and deliver in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: [email protected], please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”