A red-shirt poet whose lèse majesté case is being tried by a military court has made the extraordinary decision to fight the case despite the dim chances of winning.
On Wednesday, the military court scheduled the first witness hearing for 2 April. There are 10 witnesses in total.
His case is being tried in camera at a military court after the court said his crimes--writing poems-- are severe since his poems touched on the revered Thai monarchy.
On three counts, Sirapop faces a maximum jail term of 45 years. He told Prachatai that he is determined to fight the case and will not plead guilty.
Before the coup, the acquittal rate for lèse majesté in the Criminal Court was very low. After the coup, the coup makers, who made protection of the monarchy their top priority, transferred jurisdiction over lèse majesté cases from the civilian to the military courts, where the defendants are tried by only one court and cannot appeal, in order to ensure decisive measures against these dissidents. Moreover the military courts tend to try most cases in camera.
Most importantly, the military courts have given average prison jail terms of 9.5 years to lèse majesté convicts, while the civilian courts gave 4.5 years.
Sirapop has been repeatedly denied bail. The court cited flight risk.
“I’m still determined to fight for my principles for I believe that I’ve done nothing wrong and apparently according to the law I’m still innocent even though [lèse majesté] suspects like us are usually discriminated against,” said the defendant.
The former wife of Sirapop told Prachatai that the arrest of Sirapop gravely destroyed his business. His construction company has had to close down.
Sirapop has three children and the youngest is still in a private school. Financial problems due to the arrest have jeopardized the future of his child.
Meanwhile, Anon Nampa, the lawyer representing Sirapop, said he will submit a petition urging the military court to consult the Constitutional Court for a ruling on whether the junta’s order to transfer jurisdiction over lèse majesté cases to the military courts and the fact that defendants cannot appeal breaches Article 4 of the 2014 Interim Charter.
Sirapop was accused of composing and posting lèse majesté poems on his personal blog and Facebook account under the pen name ‘Rung Sila.’ He is charged under Article 112 of the Criminal Code or the lèse majesté law and Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act (for importing illegal content into a computer system).
Besides the lèse majesté charge, he has also been indicted for defying Order No. 41/2014 of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) for not reporting to the military in June. Sirapop was arrested on 25 June in northeastern Kalasin Province, while he was fleeing to a neighbouring country. After being detained for seven days, he was accused of posting messages deemed lèse majesté on the Internet. He has since been detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison.