On 24 April, prior to the start of hearings on Somyot Prueksakasemsuk’s lèse majesté case, the defence lawyers asked the Criminal Court to send their petition to the Constitutional Court to consider the constitutionality of Section 112 of the Criminal Code.
The court accepted the petition for consideration, and the hearing of prosecution witnesses continued.
Permanent Secretary of the PM’s Office Tongthong Chandransu, a well-known legal expert and royalist, testified that in his opinion one of the two articles in the Voice of Taksin magazine which referred to the history of late Thonburi and early Rattanakosin period was defamatory, but he could not say for sure who was meant by the fictitious character ‘Luang Narueban’ in the other article.
When the defence lawyer asked whether, under Thailand’s present system of rule, the monarchy and state authority were the same thing, he said that the monarchy was also under the law, but was still related to national security. He would not conclude that the monarchy was separate from state authority or was not the same thing, as there was such a term as ‘HM the King’s government’.
Even though Thailand now is a democracy, the penalty under Section 112 of the Criminal Code currently is harsher than it was during the absolute monarchy. And in his view the penalty of 3-15 years’ imprisonment is too harsh and not proportionate to the offence.
He said that the words ‘defame or insult’ in Section 112 should have the same meaning as those in Section 326 which involved ordinary people, but the penalties under these two sections are very different. And defendants in lèse majesté cases are not allowed exemptions from punishment or from the offence in line with Section 329.
Section 8 of the Constitution states that, ‘the King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action’, but this does not mean that people cannot criticize the King, he said, citing the King’s address on 4 Dec 2005 in which he said that he could be criticized.
However, he saw that offences under Section 112 affected national security, but not to the extent that the state would not survive.
When asked about his opinion about penalties for other criminal offences, he said that more serious crimes were subject to less severe punishment [than lèse majesté offences].
He said that amendment of Section 112 as proposed by the Nitirat group would retain the true principles of the law as opposed to being used as a political tool.
At the request of the defence lawyer, one prosecution witness, Chanathip Chumkasian, a former photographer for the Voice of Taksin magazine, was prevented from testifying, because he was found to have attended a previous hearing in the case in Phetchabun.
Another prosecution witness was Boworn Yasinthorn, leader of the Network of Volunteer Citizens to Protect the Monarchy, who reportedly has filed yet another lèse majesté complaint against Somyot.