Samut Prakan Provincial Court has dismissed a lèse majesté charge against an internet user posting a comment about the late King Rama IX in a Facebook group, on the grounds that the law protects only the current monarch; instead the court imposed a jail sentence for uploading false information, a charge that was not part of the initial indictment.
Samut Prakan Provincial Court building
On 25 March 2022, Samut Prakan Provincial Court read its verdict against Wuthipat (surname withheld), a 28-year-old employee, accused of violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code and Section 14 (3) of the Computer Crimes Act over his comment about the death of King Rama VIII in the “Royalist Marketplace” Facebook group, known for its discussions of the monarchy, with about 100,000 group members at the time of the incident.
According to the legal watchdog iLaw, the court dismissed the royal defamation accusation, despite agreeing that Wuthipat’s comment was an insult, noting that Section 112 protects the King, Queen, Heir Apparent and the Regent, but does not cover the previous King.
However, Wuthipat’s comment, which was deleted 10 minutes after posting, constituted uploading false or misleading information into a computer system, causing public anxiety, and convincing people to despise the late King. The Court sentenced him to 1 year in jail in line with Section 14 (1) of the Computer Crimes Act. The sentence was reduced to 8 months because of Wutthipat’s cooperation with the inquiry.
The Court allowed bail on a 150,000 baht bond. The defendant used the bond from his initial bail in 2020 so no additional money was paid.
In response to the verdict, , the defendant’s attorney Norasate Nanongtoom posted on Facebook that the sentence was not in line with the alleged offence the prosecutor had charged, which was under Section 112 of the Criminal Code and Section 14 (3) of the Computer Crimes Act, not Section 14 (1).
Therefore, Norasate saw this as a contravention of Section 192 of the Criminal Procedure Code which allows the Court to hand down only a sentence in line with the indictment from the prosecutor. This issue needs to be considered in the appeal stage.
According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), this case was filed with the police by Siwaphan Manitkun, who has filed at least 8 other lèse majesté cases with Bangkaew Police Station in Samut Prakan.
The death of King Ananda Mahidol, Rama VIII, occurred on 9 June 1946 when he was found shot dead inside Boromphiman Throne Hall. The investigation and trial took almost 8 years through to the Supreme Court and ended with the execution of three defendants: Chit Singhaseni, Chaleo Patoomros and But Patthamasarin, close aides of the King.
Throughout the investigation and trial, there were changes in the investigation teams after the 1947 coup and 2 lawyers for the defence were killed and 2 were charged with treason.
There have been discussions within academic and public circles about whether King Rama VIII’s death was an accident, suicide, or assassination. There have also been questions about the fairness of the trials of Chit, Chaleo and But.