Reporters Without Borders condemns the 10-year jail sentence which a criminal court in the northeast Bangkok district of Ratchada imposed today on Suwicha Thakor for posting content online that was deemed to have insulted the monarchy. Thakor has been held in Bangkok’s Klong Prem prison since 14 January.
“The charge of lese majeste has become a major tool of repression in Thailand,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The sentence passed on Suwicha Thakor violates online free expression and is out of all proportion to what he is alleged to have done. We call for his release and we urge the government to amend this law, which is being abused in an unacceptable manner.”
Thakor’s lawyer said he was accused of posting photos, videos and comments online which, according to the court, defamed the monarchy. He was found guilty on two counts under the lese majeste law and one count of causing “offence” under the Computer Act. The court gave him a 10-year jail term for each of the first two counts, for a total of 20 years but, as he pleaded guilty, this was halved.
Thakor said in court, after the verdict: “I am ill... I need help... I have three children.” Alluding to his father, wife and three children, he added: “I must remain in prison for 10 years, but there are five people who are dying.”
Thakor was arrested on 14 January by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) while staying with friends in the provinces. He was identified as the source of the defamatory content by his computer’s IP address. The DSI claimed that he had left Bangkok because he knew he was guilty. His lawyer, whose two requests for Thakor’s release on bail were rejected, has appealed against the sentence.
Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a university academic who went into exile after being sought on a lese majeste charge, said: “All Suwicha did was express his views of the monarchy online [...] But no one should be surprised that justice had not been done in the Thai courts because there is neither transparency nor responsibility in most of the country’s institutions. The judges have their own interpretation of what constitutes lese majeste.”
Download the report "His untouchable Majesty - Censorship and imprisonment : the abuses in the name of lese majeste" (issued on 9 February by Reporters Without Borders)
More information about Suwicha Thakor.