16 October 2015 – Bangkok Military Court sentenced “Opas” to 3 years in prison for allegedly writing messages deemed defamatory to the Thai monarchy or lèse-majesté on a restroom door in a shopping mall. The Court reduced the sentence to 1 year and 6 months because the defendant pleaded guilty. The trial was held in camera and no members of public were allowed in.
Observers from several organizations and embassies were present in attempt to observe the hearing, such as the EU Delegation to Thailand, representatives from the embassies of UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, and Canada. Staffs from Amnesty International and iLaw, a reporter from Prachatai, and military officers were included. There were notably more military officers than usual in front of the court entrance. Security check was more intense. Everyone entering the building were asked to identify themselves and the organizations they represented.
The military prosecutor asked the judge to try the case behind closed door, as it was an offence against the King, and details in the trial would affect the public moral negatively. The defence lawyer objected that the trial was only to hear plea and the defendant had read the charge, so the trial should be in open court for transparency. The judges agreed with the prosecutor, and ordered all observers had to leave the courtroom.
At 09.30, the Court, a panel of three military judges, then read out the indictment to Opas after which he pleaded guilty. The military prosecutor asked the defence lawyer to remove some texts in the motion requesting for minimum sentence submitted with the plea which stated that this offence was considered as one count of two continuous actions because his two alleged actions occurred in same passage of time, committed with one single intent, and ended almost at the same time. This referred to the first prosecution against him of lèse-majesté from the same incident of writing messages on restroom doors at the same shopping mall on the same day. The prosecutor argued that such texts contradicted Opas’ own confession and if such texts were not removed, the examination of defendant’s criminal intent would be proceeded. The defendant consented to delete such part of his plea as instructed by military prosecutor. The judges then sentenced Opas to 3 years of imprisonment. Since he confessed, the sentence was reduced to 1 year and 6 months.
In March 2015, prior to this verdict, Opas, a 67-year-old man, was found guilty of violating a lèse-majesté offence and was sentenced to 3 years in jail, reduced to 1 year and 6 months for his guilty plea, due to his action of scribbling messages on another restroom door at the same shopping. The two prosecutions against him stemmed from his actions of writing messages allegedly lèse-majesté on the same day in October 2014, in restrooms at the same shopping mall, but on different floors. The Court tried the two offences separately and punished Opas for two different distinct actions. Therefore, despite the jail sentence was reduced by half to 1 year 6 months, Opas will have to serve consecutive sentences in prison, on top of his current jail-term sentence.
Opas was arrested on 15 October 2014 after the shopping mall’s security guard found the messages allegedly illegal on the restroom door on a shopping mall’s second floor. He was detained for 7 days under the Martial Law, following by 84 days in pre-trial detention. Opas’ lawyer filed a petition against the pre-trial detention and application for provisional release with title deed worths 2.5 million Baht as a bail deposit, with concern over Opas’ health condition which prison may not provide an adequate treatment. However, the Court dismissed all of bail applications and the accused’s objections to pre-trial detention requests. Opas pleaded guilty on the preliminary hearing of the first case set on 20 March 2015. Bangkok Military Court then made a judgement that the defendant was found guilty of defamation and insult of the King according to Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, and convicted him to 3 years of imprisonment. The defendant pleaded guilty and gave useful information to the trial so the Court discounted the punishment by half to 1 year and 6 months in prison. This sentence alone is due to complete in March 2016.
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