A Criminal Court has dismissed a charge against a well-known Pheu Thai Party politician indicted under the Computer Crime Act for mocking a deputy junta head.
On 31 October 2016, the Southern Criminal Court of Bangkok dismissed a charge under Article 14 (1) of the Computer Crime Act against Watana Muangsook, an anti-junta politician from Pheu Thai Party.
Watana was indicted on 2 March 2016 for an article titled ‘Too little IQ’ posted on his Facebook account.
The article criticises Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, a deputy junta head and Minister of Defence, after he made a statement that soldiers assigned to monitor the activities of Yingluck Shinawatra, a former Prime Minister, only followed her because she is pretty.
Watana wrote in his article that Prawit’s comment was sexist and disrespectful. He also criticised the junta for not returning power to the people and for issuing laws that provide themselves impunity for staging a coup d’état.
The court dismissed the charge reasoning that Article 4 under the Interim Constitution guarantees that people have the freedom to express political ideas. The judges added that Watana’s other comments against the regime were also made under the framework of the law.
Watana remains accused by the military of violating National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Announcement No. 39/2014. In brief, the NCPO announcement states that people who have been released from detention must strictly comply with the conditions set upon their release or risk being imprisoned for up to two years, fined up to 40,000 baht or both.
Watana was among the politicians summoned in the aftermath of the 2014 coup d’état. He was subsequently forced to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the regime, promising to steer clear of all political activities. The charge accuses Watana’s Facebook post of violating the MoU.
Watana was also repeatedly taken in for attitude adjustment sessions, a euphemistic term for detention with forced lectures by the military, in military barracks.
Watana Muangsook in front of the Southern Criminal Court of Bangkok (Photo from BBC Thai)