Court dismisses royal defamation charge for damage to King’s portraits

The Ubon Ratchathani Provincial Court has dismissed a royal defamation charge against Taem (pseudonym) for damaging portraits of the King displayed in front of Trakan Phuet Phon high school.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights report that the court dismissed charges of royal defamation which had been brought against 33-year-old Taem for damaging three portraits of the King on 6 November 2021. The court said nothing suggested malicious intent towards the King.

The court still convicted Taem on a charge of destruction of property. It was argued that when he heard a voice in his head instructing him, he could still maintain self-control and refuse the voice.

The court imposed a light penalty, sentencing him to a fine of 6,000 baht and three months in prison suspended for five years on the condition that he receives treatment at Phra Si Maha Phot Hospital for his mental illness. Taem was also ordered to pay 20,440 baht for the damage with an annual interest rate of 5 per cent.

Due to a severe head injury from being assaulted while serving as a conscript, Taem has been displaying symptoms of mental illness for over ten years and has undergone continuous treatment.

Taem’s mother said when he does not drink alcohol, his behaviour changes; he becomes frustrated and refuses to listen to anyone. She also said that Taem did not take his medications on the day he damaged the portraits and later told her that voices from heaven made him do it. 

Taem testified the he saw a black image of the King, along with letters instructing him to destroy the portrait. He further stated that he imagined himself in a video game that required him to pass to the next level. So he destroyed three portraits of the King before turning himself in to the authorities.

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