2 people charged with royal defamation over Facebook shares and posts

A Ministry of Digital Economy and Society representative filed a complaint against a trans woman for sharing a Facebook post of an academic critic of the monarchy. In another incident, a man was charged for a post in the ‘Royalist Marketplace’ Facebook group, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

The Royalist Marketplace Facebook group interface.

On 19 April, Patchara (pseudonym), 22, a trans woman, went to hear charges at the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) filed by Ministry of Digital Economy and Society representative Suraphop Chanpleng after she shared a post by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai academic in exile, that criticized the work of King Rama X, which was seen by Suraphop on 19 November 2020.

The police stated that Patchara had violated the royal defamation law, or Section 112 of the Criminal Code, and Section 14(3) of the Computer Crime Act by uploading information about the kingdom's security that is deemed unlawful. She denied the charge and will give further documentary testimony on 19 May. She also refused to sign the register for hearing the charge.

Patchara’s case is the 8th case of royal defamation filed by the MDES since the moratorium on using Section 112 ended in November 2020. As of 20 April, at least 87 people have been charged in 80 cases.

On 20 April, Pipat (surname withheld by request), 20, travelled from Lopburi Province where he works to hear similar charges at Bangkaew Provincial Police Station, Samut Prakan Province.

The police read the charge that on 28 May 2020, Umaphon Sunthonphot saw Pipat’s post on the Royalist Marketplace, a satirical Facebook group established by Pavin Chachavalpongpun. The post consists of a photograph of King Rama X and Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti with a 2-sentence caption to the Prince’s photo, which Umaphon views as defamation, infringement or an expression of hostility against the King and the Crown Prince.

The police then charged Pipat under the royal defamation law and Section 14(3) of the Computer Crime Act.

Pipat denied all charges and will submit documentary testimony within 30 days. He also asked the police to summon the plaintiff to give further details about how his post damaged her and how it was deemed wrongful according to the Section 112 of the Criminal Code. The police said that they would do so.

After the charge hearing, the police took Pipat to Samut Prakan Provincial Court for a temporary detention order on the basis of the possibility of flight due to the long prison sentence. Pipat’s lawyer submitted a temporary release request with 150,000 baht as security, citing the principle of presumption of innocence, the accused’s good cooperation with the police, and the effect that detention would have on his career and family’s wellbeing. 

At 14.00, the court ordered Pipat to be released with 150,000 baht as security. This sum came from Ratsadorn Prasong, a donation fund used for bailing out pro-democracy protesters or sympathizers.

Royalist Marketplace has since its very beginning on 16 April 2020, become a place where people exchange opinions in daily satirical discussions of the monarchy. The present group is the second version after the original was taken down. At least 2.22 million users are members.

In the past, some posts have been made the target of witch hunts by pro-monarchy Facebook pages.

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