Recap of the case against the ‘Facebook 8’ on 29 April: Military Court denied bail requests of the Facebook page admin suspects

The Bangkok Military Court denied the bail of eight suspects who were accused of being administrators of the “We Love Gen. Prayuth” satirical Facebook page. The reasons given were that the offences are severe and the inquiry officials objected the bail. Meanwhile, the Criminal Court has dismissed the habeas corpus request into the unlawfulness of their detention, stating the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 3/2015 authorizes the military officers to arrest and detain the individuals, and that the detention lasted before the limit of seven days.

On 29 April 2016 at 9.00, the inquiry officials of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) brought the eight suspects to the Bangkok Military Court to seek detention order from the court. The suspects were arrested from their residences by military officers on 27 April and a press conference was held at the CSD on 28 April accusing that the suspects were hired to manage the “We Love Gen Prayuth” satirical Facebook page. According to the police, they were accused of committing offences of the Computer Crime Act and Article 116 (sedition) of the Criminal Code.

The inquiry official requested the Court to issue a pre-trial detention order to hold all suspects in custody for 12 days, from 29 April – 10 May. The official cited reasons that the investigation has not been completed as it needs the suspects’ fingerprints, additional evidence, and investigation by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.

The TLHR lawyers then submitted an objection against the pre-trial detention request and prepared a bail bond for a request to temporary release in case the court issued the order to detain the suspects. The lawyer argued that the offences are not severe, and the Military Court has made a criteria that defaming the Prime Minister does not constitute an offence of inciting unrest in the kingdom or sedition under Article 116 of the Criminal Code. However, the inquiry official also prepared an objection to the temporary release, giving reasons that the case involves with the offence against national security with high rates of punishment, and the official was concerned that the suspects will tamper with evidence.

The Military Court later issued the pre-trial detention order to remand the 8 suspects and all were transferred to the Bangkok Remand Prison. The defense lawyer said that the suspects’ action did not fall within the scope of the sedition-like offence under Article 116. In addition, the military and police should not arrest individuals by invoking power under the Head of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015 before having court warrants. The lawyers then submitted bail applications for the 8 suspects.

At 16.00, the Military Court rejected the request for temporary release. The reasons of the objection were that the case involves severe offences committed as team, and the inquiry official has objected the temporary release.

In previous similar cases accused of sedition for some messages criticising the Head of the NCPO, the Bangkok Military Court once ruled it was a defamation offence, not a sedition, which should be tried in a civilian court. The first case was Mrs. Rinda who allegedly posted a rumour about Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha’s illegal oversea transaction. She faced charges of sedition under Article 116 and alarming the public by maliciously circulating false reports under Article 384 of the Criminal Code, and Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act. The Military Court ruled that her action did not fall under Article 116, therefore the Military Court did not have the jurisdiction over the case, and Mrs. Rinda shall be tried in the civilian court for the other charges. Another case was Mrs. Jam who faced charges of Article 116 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crime Act for posting on Facebook about conflicts among the NCPO on the corruption in the construction of the Rajabhakti Park. The military prosecutor issued a non-prosecution order for the sedition charge under Article 116 and, as the offence under the Computer Crime Act is not listed under the NCPO Announcement No. 37/2014, therefore the case should be tried in civilian courts.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights deems that the alleged action of the eight suspects is an exercise of the right to freedom of expression which comments were about an individual, not the State. Therefore, the alleged action was not within the scope of the offence under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, an offence against national security that is currently under jurisdiction of military court. In addition, the Bangkok Military Court has made aforementioned opinions in Mrs. Rinda’s sedition case that such action fell only under the offence of defamation whereas a military prosecutor made a non-prosecution order on Mrs. Jam’s case who was charged with sedition for allegedly posting online about the allegation of military’s corruption. Thus, this case should also be under the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court.

 

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TLHR lawyer giving interview after the Criminal Court dismissed the habeas corpus motion

On the same day, the Criminal Court dismissed the habeas corpus motion requesting the inquest into the unlawful detention of four of the eight suspects who were arrested on 27 April 2016.

The motion was submitted on 28 April by the relatives of Mr. Nopklao Kongsuwan, Mr. Suphachai Saibutr, Ms. Wararat Mengtrakul (real name withdrawn), and Mr. Harit Mahathon, along with the TLHR lawyer. They requested the release of the four suspects as well as the court’s inquiry into their detention according to Article 90 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The Court’s dismissal stated that the arrest and detention were conducted during daytime, the Head of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015 on the Maintaining Public Order and National Security was enforced during the time of the detention, and the suspects were detained for committing an offence against national security under Article 116 which was listed in the Head of NCPO Order No. 3/2015. The time period between the arrest day until the day on which the motion was filed did not exceed the seven-day time period that is authorised under the Head of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015. Therefore, the Court considered that the arrest and detention of the suspects are not unlawful.

 

*Article 116 of the Criminal Code –

Whoever makes an appearance to the public by words, writings or any other means which is not an act within the purpose of the Constitution or for expressing an honest opinion or criticism in order:

  1. To bring about a change in the Laws of the Country or the Government by the use of force or violence;
  2. To raise unrest and disaffection amongst the people in a manner likely to cause disturbance in the country; or
  3. To cause the people to transgress the laws of the Country, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding seven years.

 

**Section 14 of the Computer Crime Act 2007 –

If any person commits any offence of the following acts shall be subject to imprisonment for not more than five years or a fine of not more than one hundred thousand baht or both:

  1. that involves import to a computer system of forged computer data, either in whole or in part, or false computer data, in a manner that is likely to cause damage to that third party or the public;
  2. that involves import to a computer system of false computer data in a manner that is likely to damage the country’s security or cause a public panic;
  3. that involves import to a computer system of any computer data related with an offence against the Kingdom’s security under the Criminal Code;
  4. that involves import to a computer system of any computer data of a pornographic nature that is publicly accessible;
  5. that involves the dissemination or forwarding of computer data already known to be computer data under (1) (2) (3) or (4).
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