Witness of 2010 political violence gets suspended jail term for defaming military

A criminal court has handed a two-year suspended jail term to a witness of Thailand’s April-May 2010 political violence accused of defaming the Thai Army.   

On 8 December 2016, the Criminal Court of Thailand sentenced Thanaporn (surname withheld due to privacy concerns) to two years of imprisonment with a 100,000 baht fine, according to iLaw. The court suspended the jail term for two years.

Thanaporn is accused of violating Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act for posting a Facebook message along with a image of himself raising a three-fingered salute (borrowed from the Hunger Games series) in November 2014.

The Facebook message, reading “5,000 of them should have died, so the land will be higher”, was posted after a helicopter of the Royal Thai Army crashed in the northern Phayao Province on 18 November 2014.

The court reasoned that Thanaporn clearly intended to defame the Thai military with such a message, adding that the message also showed disrespect to the soldiers who died in the crash.   

Thanaporn told the court that he posted his message out of anger. He said that he had witnessed army officers killing three people, including Hiroyuki Muramoto, a Reuters cameraman, during the the violent military crackdown on the anti-establishment red-shirt protesters during the April-May 2010 political violence.

Thanaporn himself was injured during the crackdown.

The court ruled Thanaporn’s experiences did not justify his actions since he is not related to anybody killed during the 2010 crackdown. Moreover the army officers who died from the helicopter crash were not involved in the crackdown.   

Thanaporn was arrested on 4 December 2014. He argued in court that the solders who arrested him did not have the right to invoke martial law to detain him because defamation is not one of the crimes specified by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) as able to invoke martial law. However, the Court dismissed this argument.

Thanaporn (left) in front of  the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Rd., Bangkok, on 8 December 2016 (Photo from iLaw)

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