Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) have pointed out that the legal procedure under the Military Court leading to the verdict passed on a single mother convicted under the lèse majesté law is ‘unlawful’ and violates the rights to a fair trial.
The TLHR legal team on Tuesday afternoon, 15 December 2015, submitted a petition against the court procedure in trying Chayapha C., a 49-year-old single mother, who yesterday was sentenced to 19 years in jail for offenses under Article 112, the lèse majesté law, and Article 116, the sedition law, of the Criminal Code and Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act (importation of illegal online content).
The court, however, halved the jail term to nine years and six months because Chayapha pleaded guilty.
The military court read the verdict right after Chayapha pleaded guilty during the deposition hearing. She was informed by the authorities about the hearing on Monday night, 14 December 2015, less than 24 hours before she was brought from Bangkok’s Women Correctional Institution to the Military Court.
Sasinan Thamnithinan, the suspect’s lawyer from TLHR, was informed about the ruling after it was already read because she was not informed by the court about the schedule for the hearing.
According to TLHR, the court procedure in this case violates the suspect’s rights to a fair trial and was ‘unlawful’.
The procedure in which the military court read out the verdict for Chayapha without her attorney present in the courtroom violated Article 173 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
In brief, Article 173 states that in the case of the offence punishable with imprisonment, before commencing the trial, the court shall ask the accused whether he/she has counsel or not; if the accused has none and requires one, the Court shall appoint one for him/her.
The fact that the court did not inform the lawyer about the schedule for the hearing, despite the fact that the defendant has a lawyer, contributed to the heavy penalty handed to the suspect, stated TLHR.
The lawyers group added that although Chayapha’s lawyer was at the Military Court of Bangkok on Monday, one day before the verdict was read, she was not informed about the hearing the next day.
As Chayapha’s attorney, Sasinan told Prachatai that she had earlier asked the court about the schedule for her client’s deposition hearing, but the authorities did not inform her until after the military court had read the verdict.
The lawyer said that the military court at first refused her request to transcribe the indictment report against Chayapha and that she had to request it the twice from the court.
Chayapha, an anti-establishment red shirt from Samut Prakan Province, was accused of using the Facebook identity ‘Chanisa Boonyajinda’ to post an image of a military tank with a message saying the counter-coup was on its way.
She was arrested and taken to a military base on 23 June 2015 by military officers without an arrest warrant. After seizing her mobile phone, tablet, and computer, the police from Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) later charged her under the Computer Crime Act, and the sedition and lèse majesté laws.
Pol Maj Gen Siripong Timula, Commander of the TCSD, said “after we expanded the investigation of the case, we found that she had also posted messages which referred negatively to the Thai monarchy so we requested the military court to issue an arrest warrant under Article 112 for her.”