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A court in Pitsanulok has found a graduate student from Bangkok guilty of royal defamation for posting about protest crackdowns in October 2020. Sentencing was deferred for 2 years.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that on Wednesday (4 October), the Pitsanulok Provincial Court found ‘Center’ (pseudonym), a graduate student at a university in Bangkok, guilty of royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act.  He was charged for a Facebook post about the use of water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas to crackdown on protests in Bangkok in October 2020.

Taking into consideration the defendant’s education, work experience, and contributions to society, the court deferred sentencing for 2 years. The ruling also stated that the defendant had been the victim of “false information” on social media about the monarchy during the protests in 2020, had never committed a crime and had apologised in front of the King’s portrait. The defendant will need to report to a court-appointed social psychologist 4 times over the next year.

TLHR said that the complaint was filed by Toranin Rakthanabadi, a  primary school classmate and Facebook friend of Center’s in early 2021. Center said the police asked him to go to the police station without a formal summons. No lawyer or trusted person was present during the meeting, in which he was interrogated and made to consent to giving the police the password to his Facebook account without a court warrant. TLHR added that he was questioned as a witness against himself and was not informed of his legal rights.

The police later contacted him and arranged for him to meet Toranin at the police station. His accuser asked him to ‘repent’ by posting favourable commentary on King Bhumibol and King Vajiralongkorn’s work twice a day for a week. He was told he also had to tag Toranin and Nangnoi Assawakittikorn, a former member of the royalist group Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims, in the posts.

TLHR said that the police convinced Center to testify that he did not intend to defame the King and has repented for his action. He was also asked to prostrate himself in front of a portrait of the King while a police officer took a picture of him.

In early December 2022, Center was asked to meet with the inquiry officer at the Pitsanulok Municipal Police Station for further questioning. He did not receive a formal summons to hear his charges. However, when he went to the police station with a lawyer he was charged with royal defamation. In February 2023, he was summoned again and charged with violation of the Computer Crimes Act.

He was indicted on 29 March 2023 on the grounds that the content of his posts defamed the King, caused misunderstanding and hatred, and brought data likely to endanger national security into a computer system.

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