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Former protest leader gets suspended sentence for royal defamation

09. December 2023

Former protest leader Shinawat Chankrajang has been sentenced to prison for royal defamation following a protest demanding the right to bail for political detainees. The court later suspended the sentence for two years and imposed a probation order.

On 7 December, the South Bangkok Criminal Court delivered its verdict in the case of activist Shinawat “Bright” Chankrajang, who was indicted under the royal defamation law and the Computer-Related Crime Act, and for using a sound amplifier without permission, while demanding the right to bail for two detained activists, Netiporn Sanesangkhom and Natthanit Duangmusit, at the South Bangkok Criminal Court on 28 July 2022, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

The complaint was filed by Anon Klinkaew, leader of the ultra-royalist group People’s Centre to Protect the Monarchy. The allegation stemmed from Shinawat’s speech where he addressed the transfer and reversion of the crown property assets to the ownership of the King during the tenure of the former PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and the transfer of military units to come under royal command. He also called for the release of all political detainees.

Following the first witness examinations, Shinawat decided to plead guilty. The court ordered probation officers to investigate before presenting the verdict on 7 December.

The court concluded that Shinawat was guilty under the royal defamation law and the Computer-Related Crime Act, and of the offence of using a sound amplifier without permission, which constituted multiple offences for a single act. Sentencing was based on the law with the heaviest penalty, resulting in three years in prison. He was also fined 200 baht for unauthorised use of a sound amplifier. Due to his guilty plea, the penalty was reduced to one year and six months and a 100 baht fine.

However, the court noted that Shinawat has never been imprisoned and he has also participated in various social service activities. Therefore, the sentence was suspended for two years, during which time he will be on probation. He is required to report to probation officers three times per year and to perform 24 hours of social service. Shinawat is also prohibited from committing the same offence.

The case is Shinawat’s first royal defamation charge. He was remanded in custody for 26 days during the inquiry stage before the appeal court granted bail.

Shinawat has been charged under the royal defamation law in a total of 7 cases, with 6 cases currently pending. Among these cases is a charge stemming from a speech he gave during a protest at the Lat Phrao intersection on 2 December 2020, for which he has pleaded guilty. The court will present its verdict on 13 December.

Shinawat was formerly a leader of the pro-democracy Rasadon group, which protested against the government led by Prayut Chan-o-cha. He later turned to support the United Thai Nation Party linked with Prayut by helping its candidate to campaign for the general election in May.

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Online clothing vendor sentenced to 6 years in prison for royal defamation

08. December 2023

A 32-year-old online clothing vendor has been sentenced to 6 years in prison for royal defamation stemming from a 2021 share of three Facebook posts about the government’s Covid-19 vaccine policy, police corruption and calls for monarchy reform. He has been denied bail and is now detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison.

Jirawat (Photo from TLHR)

Jirawat (last name withheld), 32, was charged with royal defamation for sharing three Facebook posts between January – March 2021. One of the posts, from the anti-monarchy Facebook page KTUK – Konthai Uk, stated that the Thai government was unable to import good Covid-19 vaccines because it did not join the World Health Organisation’s COVAX programme. It also noted that King Vajiralongkorn held shares in the only company licensed to produce a Covid-19 vaccine in Thailand.

The second post, from another Facebook user, contained pictures of 4 official documents and Move Forward Party MP Rangsiman Rome holding pieces of paper. Captions alluded to police corruption, bribe-taking and the possibility that a signature on one of the document was Queen Suthida’s.

The third post contained a transcript of a speech given by activist Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon during a 24 March 2021 protest. In the speech, she said that people must be able to praise and criticise the monarchy, both because it is their fundamental right to do so and because, as friends of the monarchy, they should be able to reprimand an individual king if he does not behave appropriately.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), Jirawat said that the complaint against him was filed by Pattarawan Khumma, a relative of his wife who used to work for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). Jirawat stated that Pattarawan and his wife had a fight before the complaint was filed, leading him to suspect that she was using the royal defamation law to harass him for personal reasons.

Under cross-examination, Pattarawan admitted that she is related to Jirawat’s wife but refused to answer questions about the fight.

Jirawat acknowledged sharing the posts, but testified that he did not add any messages to them. He also added in his defence that while the posts criticised the government and raised questions about the monarchy, citizens have the constitutional right and freedom to express opinions on such matter.

TLHR said that, on Wednesday (6 December), the South Bangkok Criminal Court found Jirawat guilty of royal defamation, sentencing him to 3 years in prison for each post. His 9 year sentence was later reduced to 6 years.

The court ruled that the posts damaged the people’s faith in the monarchy by causing people to misunderstand that the King, the main shareholder in the Siam Bioscience company, was seeking to monopolise the local market for Covid-19 vaccine by delaying vaccine procurement from overseas.

During witness examination, Apiporn Pasawat, Siam Bioscience’s board president, testified that King Vajiralongkorn was the majority shareholder in the company, with Air Chief Marshal Satitpong Sukvimol and Pol Col Thumnithi Wanichthanom holding 1 share each. Apiporn also testified that he contacted AstraZeneca with the help of a former colleague at the Siam Cement Group (SCG) and secured a license to produce the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. He initially denied that the Thai government ordered vaccine from Siam Bioscience.

However, under cross-examination, Apiporn stated that Air Chief Marshal Satitpong signed a Covid-19 vaccine purchase contract with the Ministry of Public Health, but only as a witness. He also admitted that Siam Bioscience had never produced a vaccine before the pandemic and said that the company received 600 million baht from the Thai government in support.

Finally, he acknowledged that the company made a profit from vaccine production, with its shareholders, including the King, receiving dividends.

The second post was held to have damaged the reputation of Queen Suthida by suggesting that she was involved in the appointment and transfer of police officers.

As for the third post, the court ruled that Patsaravalee’s speech was insulting and disrespectful to the King, damaging people’s faith in the monarchy because it claimed that the King was expanding his powers and not acting in accordance with the Constitution by interfering in government affairs and the judicial system as well as by transferring property and military units to himself.

Jirawat’s lawyer filed for bail. His request was forwarded to the Appeal Court, which ruled today (8 December) to deny him bail on the ground that he is a flight risk. It also said that his offence damaged the monarchy and the democratic regime with the King as the head of state.

Jirawat's detention brought the number of people detained pending trial or appeal on a royal defamation charge to 15.

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51-year-old man found imprisoned since 2020 for royal defamation over FB comments

06. December 2023

Cover photo: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights

A 51-year-old man has recently been found detained in Bangkok Remand Prison since 2020 after being found guilty of royal defamation.

On 30 November, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights discovered a previously unreported detainee in Bangkok Remand Prison who was later identified as 51-year-old Yong (first and last name withheld).

Yong stated that he has been detained for 3 years. He recounted that it started when he commented on a Facebook post that contained an image of the royal family and interacted with others on the post.

At the time, the National Council for Peace and Order was still in power. He said he was arrested by officials from the military, including the Internal Security Operation Command. He was taken to the 11th Infantry Regiment and detained for 3-4 days, during which time his mobile phone was confiscated.

He was subsequently taken to Prawet Police Station and informed of the charges under the royal defamation law and the Computer-Related Crime Act. Yong said he was detained for 19 days before filing a bail application. He was later released.

After being released, he decided to plead guilty on 1 December 2020. Yong was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but due to his guilty plea, the sentence was reduced to 6 years.

Yong added that he had received two pardons on special occasions which reduced his sentence. His remaining sentence is approximately 7 months and he expects to be released on 15 June 2024.

Yong was a taxi driver who provided a transportation service from Suvarnabhumi Airport. He said that he had previously participated in the 2010 Red Shirt protests. He also witnessed the shooting in the head of Red Shirt military chief Maj Gen Khattiya ‘Seh Daeng’ Sawasdipol at the Saladaeng intersection.

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Evidence examination hearing in Mitr Phol lawsuit postponed to 2024

06. December 2023

The class action lawsuit filed by Cambodian farmers for damages caused by the sugar company Mitr Phol has been ongoing for 5 years. Recently, the court postponed the evidence examination hearing, asking the attorneys of both the plaintiff and the defendant to gather and do new translations of documents by 27 March 2024. The court has emphasized to both parties that only documents submitted at the hearing will be used in the trial.

The team of lawyers from the Community Resource Centre and the Legal Rights and Environmental Protection Association, and representatives of Cambodian villagers at the South Bangkok Civil Court on 6 November 2023. (Photo: Burapat Chanpratad)

An evidence examination hearing was scheduled for 6 November 2023 at Bangkok South Civil Court, for a lawsuit filed by Cambodian farmer Hoy Mai and 2 others against Mitr Phol Sugar Corp., Ltd.

The plaintiffs’ attorney explains that foreign documents which need a warrant to be submitted to the court have to be translated into Thai. Documents from a court in the US have already been received but are still being translated and all of the documentary evidence will be ready for submission to the court by the end of February 2024.

The defendant’s attorney, meanwhile, told the Court that they are waiting for official documents from Cambodia, including court rulings and the concession contract from the Cambodian government, which require time to gather and translate but will be ready by the end of February 2024. Both parties requested that the trial be postponed.

Since the documents mentioned by both parties are important in the questioning of both sides, the Court has allowed the evidence examination hearing to be postponed to 27 March 2024 at 9.00. The court said that only documents submitted by the time of the hearing will be used during the trial.

Sor. Rattanamanee Polkla, lawyer and coordinator of the Community Resource Centre Foundation, representing the Cambodian farmers suing Mitr Phol. (Photo: Burapat Chanpratad)

An evidence examination hearing was scheduled for 6 November 2023 at Bangkok South Civil Court, for a lawsuit filed by Cambodian farmer Hoy Mai and 2 others against Mitr Phol Sugar Corp., Ltd.

The plaintiffs’ attorney explains that foreign documents which need a warrant to be submitted to the court have to be translated into Thai. Documents from a court in the US have already been received but are still being translated and all of the documentary evidence will be ready for submission to the court by the end of February 2024.

The defendant’s attorney, meanwhile, told the Court that they are waiting for official documents from Cambodia, including court rulings and the concession contract from the Cambodian government, which require time to gather and translate but will be ready by the end of February 2024. Both parties requested that the trial be postponed.

Since the documents mentioned by both parties are important in the questioning of both sides, the Court has allowed the evidence examination hearing to be postponed to 27 March 2024 at 9.00. The court said that only documents submitted by the time of the hearing will be used during the trial.

Sor. Rattanamanee Polkla, coordinator of the Community Resource Centre Foundation and the lawyer representing the Cambodian farmers, said “There are documents all of which require translation into Thai by February 2024 and can be submitted to the court. So, the court has set a date on 27 March 2024. The court has emphasized that whatever documents are available for submission will be accepted. Other documents that are not submitted will not be taken into consideration. It will be taken as the final day of evidence examination.”

The lawyer representing Mitr Phol declined an interview.

On the same day (6 November 2023), the International Commission of Jurists and Amnesty International submitted an amicus curiae brief on the case, making legal recommendations to the judges presiding over the case.

The first transborder class action lawsuit in Thailand

Bangkok South Civil Court, Charoen Krung Road, Bangkok. (Photo: Burapat Chanpratad)

This lawsuit was filed in 2018 as a class action case in the Civil Court. Hoy Mai and Smin Tet, together with villagers from 23 out of 700 families of Bos, O’ Bat Moan, Taman, Trapain and Ktum villages in Koun Kriel Commune, Samraong District, Oddar Meanchey Province in western Cambodia jointly filed a lawsuit against Mitr Phol Sugar Corp., Ltd. on the grounds that their rights were violated by the action of Angkor Sugar Company, a subsidiary company of Mitr Phol in Cambodia. The lawsuit calls for Mitr Phol to pay compensation of over 300 million baht, plus interest, to the plaintiffs and members of the class of 23 families.

The lawsuit is seeking compensation for medical expenses and hospital fees, damages to property, including houses and crops that were burnt down, and for human right violations caused by the sugar cane concession from the Cambodian government which allowed private companies to use land on which communities were already living and farming. It is the first class action lawsuit filed in a Thai court against a transnational Thai company for the human rights impact of its investment in another country.   

The lawsuit stemmed from a complaint filed by Cambodian people in Samraong and Chong Kal districts of Oddar Meanchey Province, claiming that Mitr Phol forced them to leave their lands in 2008-2009 in order to transform the land into a large sugarcane plantation to supply Mitr Phol’s subsidiary companies, including Angkor Sugar Company. Included in the 9,430 hectares of land is a community forest jointly managed by members of 26 communities. The plantation project eventually failed, and Mitr Phol’s subsidiary company closed down. However, the villagers remain affected to this day. The court accepted the class action lawsuit on 31 July 2018. 

In 2015, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRC) issued a report after receiving a complaint that Mitr Phol was directly responsible for what happened in Cambodia and suggested that it compensate the victims.

In the  NHRC report, dated 12 October 2015, the villagers alleged that a representative company of Mitr Phol seized the land of the local people illegally by destroying houses and killing livestock.  The village was set on fire and crops were destroyed.  

Mitr Phol is Thailand’s largest sugar producer and is among the 3 largest sugar producers in the world. Isara Vongkusolkit, Mitr Phol Group’s board president, is also a former president of the Thai Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade of Thailand.

Mitr Phol told the NHRC that, of its investment project in Cambodia, one company is a direct investment and another is a joint venture with 2 other companies, and that it received a land concession of about 110,000 rai. However, it said that the Mitr Phol Group does not support encroachment on land that belongs to others, including the forcibly seizure of land or destruction of property. Its investment in Cambodia was conducted in accordance with Cambodian law and in compliance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Under the agreement as stated in the contract, the Cambodian government would conduct the survey and allocate land concessions for agriculture to Mitr Phol Group. If land expropriation was necessary, government officials would be responsible for negotiating until a resolution is reached.     

Mitr Phol decided to stop the project in 2014 and returned the land to the government. It also suggested that the Cambodian Government return the right to land for the villagers, but the villagers’ lawyer said most have not received their land back from the government.

In a 2018 BBC Thai report, Mitr Phol explained via email correspondence that its investment project was in collaboration with the Cambodian government and that it received temporary land concessions from the government legally at both national and local levels. It also said that it received confirmation from government officials that the land involved in the temporary concessions was acquired in a transparent and legal manner. 

Green News reported that the Bangkok South Civil Court accepted the class action lawsuit on 31 July 2020, after the Court of First Instance did not allow it to be filed as a class action. The Court of Appeal has examined the statements of the consultation meeting and concluded that the damage to houses and property of some members of a group of 23 families out of 700 families is considered as the same violation to a group of individuals. The group also has the same demands, and although there are different damages, filing the lawsuit as a class action saves time and expense, as well as prevents repetition in proceeding with the case and conflicts on judgments.    

Transborder News reported that on 18 May 2022, the South Bangkok Civil Court ruled on an appeal filed by Mitr Phol regarding the order of the Court of First Instance not accepting the case, after it requested that the Court of First Instance rule whether the case’s one-year statute of limitation has expired under Thai law. It asked the court to make a ruling before evidence examination, but the Court of First Instance dismissed the appeal and ordered the evidence examination to proceed. The Court of Appeal also dismissed the appeal on the grounds that the order made by the Court of First Instance is justified.

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COP28: What is on the table?

29. November 2023

Climate breakdown has been the most severe threat to life for at least a couple of generations. We have reached a point where most governments and peoples agree; this is monumental.

Though climate threat is indiscriminate, devastating both the rich and the poor, the poorest are hit the hardest. Between 1970 and 2021, 9 out of every 10 deaths and 60% of economic losses caused by extremes of weather, climate happened in developing countries. 

There is an urgent need for rapid acceleration of global adaptation. Estimated climate adaptation costs and needs for developing countries range from US$215 billion to US$387 billion annually throughout the coming decade.  

At the UN climate summit in 2009, high-income nations pledged to provide US $100 billion in annual funding by 2020 to help low-income countries adapt to climate change. They have failed to do so.

It comes as no surprise that the most anticipated moment in the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP28, in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, is when the long overdue Loss and Damage Fund will be realized.

Though COP28 Director-General Majid Al Suwaidi told CNN that climate finance has been put at the top of the agenda and that "thanks to support from many including Canada and Germany we have already seen the progress." 

But after a long and exhausting debate, the latest proposal for the Loss and Damage Fund for COP28 does not say where the money will come from. It just "urges" developed countries and "invites" others to contribute.

The World Bank will manage the Fund for at least the first four years, despite low-income nations' worries that would make access more challenging.

The twenty-six members of the "Board of the Fund" will be appointed and are expected to have their first meeting two months after COP28. Twelve of the Board members will come from developed countries.  

The Fund promises to provide financial support for both economic and non-economic loss and damage from the effects of climate change. Some high-income nations are trying to limit access to the Fund to only the most vulnerable countries. 

"We will propose projects for which we need support from the international community, either under Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement, which allows us to sell carbon credits, or those out of Article 6.2 without carbon credit trading, like the promotion of electric vehicles, low methane rice farming, or the Floating Solar farm," says Phirun Saiyasitpanich, Director of Thailand’s Department of Climate Change and Environment and the leading member of its negotiation team at COP28.

One of the activities for which Thailand expects financial support is to turn the dusty province of Saraburi, a town of rock blasting and a hundred cement plants that emitted 28 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2015, into a net-zero city by 2050 by replacing old cement works, introducing EVs with renewable energy and hydrogen technology, and installing carbon capture and storage facilities in limestone mines. The project is expecting US$3 million from the Global Environmental Fund.

The Swiss Re Institute in 2021 put Thailand as one of the five countries least prepared for the economic shock of climate change. The Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) found that ,between 2000 and 2019, Thailand faced 146 climate abnormalities, leaving the country with a loss of US$7.7 billion.

The country plunged 11 places in this year's Climate Change Performance Index, dropping from a medium to a low performer. Though it maintained a medium rating in energy use, it received low ratings for GHG emissions, renewable energy, and climate policy.

As an improvement, Thailand is drafting its first Climate Change Bill, expected to be made into law in 2024. The bill includes a green taxonomy, which will be transferred to the Green Fund, supporting adaptation and technology transfer for the public and private sectors, including those most vulnerable.

Somkiat Tangkitvanich, President of the TDRI think tank, suggested the government implement a two-tier carbon taxation scheme similar to the EU's Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) for exports to be charged by CBAM and a tax on the fossil fuel energy sector. The carbon tax should go to the Green Transition and Adaptation Fund to enforce mitigation and adaptation activities and help vulnerable groups impacted by the change.

"But the more robust way for Thailand to reach the commitment is to reduce the subsidy to fossil fuels, especially diesel fuel, which are highly polluting and have caused a loss of over 70,000 million baht to our gasoline subsidy fund so far."

Now consuming 152 million litres of gasoline daily, Thailand has pledged to become a carbon-neutral country by 2050 and carbon-zero by 2065. Despite the timeline being more prolonged than most countries, the goal appears difficult.

Surachai Sathitkunarat of the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation, sees technology as a significant force. 

"Technology transfer and development need to work with the private sector, which is ready and willing to change because it has faced world pressure. The state alone cannot make the country achieve whatever goal it is committed to; it should facilitate technology for the private sector and move together," said Surachai, who is in the country's negotiation team on technology transfer and development.

He sees Thailand as having a high potential for renewable energy, especially biomass energy, which will also benefit over 18 million farmers. The country could also access and develop technology like hydrogen technology or carbon capture and storage (CCS) under the mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, he suggests.

Thailand's industry sector knows well the consequences of global regulations. The 2015-2019 "yellow card" from the European Union against "illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing" (IUU) brought the country's commercial fishing fleet  to its knees. 

SCG, a regional conglomerate and Thailand’s biggest cement producer, was a major target of the first CBAM. It started producing low-carbon cement in 2009.  

Oil company Bangchak started its Sustainable Aviation Fuel project using used cooking oil. Meanwhile, the energy giant PTTEP, invested US$ 400 million in carbon capture and storage (CCS) at one of its gas fields. PTT, another of the country's largest energy businesses, invested over 200 billion baht (US$5 billion) between 2021 and 2022 in its low-carbon businesses, including hydrogen energy. One of the country's leading banks, KBank, adopted a policy of no financial support for fossil fuels.

But only some are ready and yet happy.

Twelve hours drive from Bangkok, the capital, on the world-famous island of Phuket, surrounded by the turquoise Andaman Sea, Pichet Pandam from the Bang Rong mangrove community plans to call on other coastal provinces to say no to Thailand’s carbon credit scheme. 

His community just sent a letter to the country's Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, turning down a carbon credit contract for their mangrove forest. More communities will do so, he said.

The Bang Rong community’s mangrove is among the 99 registered community mangroves to be made available to private businesses that will manage and sell carbon credits. One community in a nearby province receives 200,000 baht (US$5600) as a concession fee, and it will receive 450 baht (US$13) for every rai (0.3 acre) of its mangrove each year for 30 years. 

The Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organization states that the country has traded 2.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2 eq) of carbon credits since 2015, 309,306 tCO2 eq of which were from forest land, including mangrove forests. The price of forest carbon credits is 500 baht (US$14.2) for each tCO2 eq, the highest in the market.

Supporters of carbon credit markets say that they could be a way to channel funds to communities for forest protection.

Pichet sees it differently. “You sinned, you want to wipe it clean with your money, and we and our mangrove are those who do the laundry,” he said.

Pichet said skepticism is deeply rooted among the locals, who for generations have seen their natural resources, land, and rights repeatedly violated for the benefit of strangers.

"In the 60s, most mangroves faced cooking charcoal concessions that burnt all trees. We could not use or even walk into our mangroves," Pichet said. Then, in the 80s, came the shrimp farm concessions that took away their rights and wrecked the mangrove forest.

"We spent decades bringing them back to life. Now, you will take it for another concession to another stranger who knows nothing about mangroves or us. You have always refused to acknowledge the wisdom to protect the mangroves we inherited; now you want to take the benefit from it."

In COP28, the carbon credit agenda is still identified as vital.

Somkiat from the TDRI said the Institute encourages the use of a voluntary carbon credit market. However, corporations must be transparent, reveal details of their carbon stocks, reduce the cost of verification, which stands as the highest cost of running the business, and ensure carbon credits will not encourage encroaching. 

Phirun understands his country's concerns but is optimistic and confident.

"We would not allow greenwashing but work with the communities and locals to make sure it's not just to make money for someone but benefits all. We will not focus on any one aspect but a holistic one."

"Otherwise, we will not achieve any goal," Phirun says, before heading to Dubai.

This article is part of the media series "COP28 and Thailand". by Prachatai English, published parallel to the COP28 between 30 November-12 December 2023. 

Read part 1: Where is Thailand in the boiling world?

The series was produced as part of the 2023 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.

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57-year-old jailed for royal defamation over FB share

29. November 2023

A 57-year-old woman from Phetchabun Province has been sentenced to one year and six months in prison after allegedly sharing a Facebook post calling for the monarchy to be under the constitution.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that Homdaeng (pseudonym), a 57-year-old woman from Phetchabun Province, was indicted under the royal defamation law and the Computer-Related Crime Act for sharing a FB post calling for the monarchy to be under the constitution.

The complaint was filed by Sajja Chokeboonsongsawad, Director of the IT Crime Prevention and Suppression Division, Office of the Permanent Secretary, on behalf of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society. Homdaeng was accused of sharing a post on 17 October 2020. Some of the original message contained harsh words, but she did not add any text; her only action was sharing. Homdaeng acknowledged the charges on 22 January 2021.

She was indicted on 27 July 2022 and was granted bail with 90,000 baht as security. On 5 October 2023, before the witness examination stage, Homdaeng decided to plead guilty.

On 20 November, the court ruled that Homdaeng was guilty under the royal defamation law and the Computer-Related Crime Act. In accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure, the sentence was based on the law with a heavier penalty, resulting in three years in prison. Due to her guilty plea, the penalty was reduced to one year and six months, without parole.

The court stated that the message contained false and offensive information about the king. The defendant should have carefully considered whether it was true or not, but she still spread the information, which showed that she did not respect the monarchy.

The action could lead to dissatisfaction among the Thai people and disharmony in society, and have an impact on national security. Therefore, the court had no reason to suspend the sentence.

Pending an appeal, her lawyer filed a bail application with 100,000 baht as security. The court subsequently granted bail without any conditions.

The TLHR observed that in their royal defamation cases, Warunee and Wat also pleaded guilty and were sentenced to one year and six months in prison. However, the Appeal Court repeatedly denied bail, stating that the charges carried a high penalty and the defendants were likely to flee. As a result, both have been detained in prison pending appeal.

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Two activists charged with contempt of court

28. November 2023

Activists Netiporn Sanesangkhom and Thanalop Phalanchai have been charged with contempt of court for an incident on 19 October, during which a police officer hit Netiporn with a baton and injured her.

On 19 October, Netiporn and Thanalop were attending the trial of Saharat Sukkhamla, a graduate from Mahidol University’s College of Religious Studies and ex-novice monk, who was found guilty of royal defamation. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said the two activists climbed onto a fence near the cell at the South Bangkok Criminal Court building in an attempt to ask if Saharat needed anything to eat while he was detained pending the result of his bail request.

A court marshal and two security guards stopped them and threatened to charge them with contempt of court.  Netiporn explained that they wanted to ask Saharat about visiting if he was not granted bail but the marshal refused to let them. Instead, he pulled Thanalop away from the fence. Netiporn said she tried to pull him away from Thanalop but was blocked by the two security guards who hit her on the arm and back.

According to TLHR, Thanalop and Netiporn approached the court marshal to ask for his name and to inquire whether he had the authority to charge them with contempt of court. Netiporn asserts he responded by punching her shoulder. She started arguing with him and tried to kick him. He reportedly responded by hitting her with his baton, injuring her arm.

Netiporn and several other activists tried to file a complaint with the director of the court’s administrative office for the marshal’s excessive use of force. However, she was not allowed to meet the director and was told by an officer that she needed to meet with a judge instead. The officer did not explain why or mention that she was being charged with something.

Still bleeding, Netiporn decided to head to a hospital but she and the rest of the activists were blocked from leaving the building by officers who told her that she had to report to a judge before she could leave. TLHR said a bystander tried to negotiate with the court officers, explaining that Netiporn had not been charged with anything and should be allowed to go have her injury treated. When the officers refused, the activists tried to push past them at which point, according to Netiporn, one of the marshals touched her breasts.

TLHR reports that on Monday (27 November), the South Bangkok Criminal Court charged Netiporn and Thanalop with contempt of court over the incident. A hearing was previously scheduled for yesterday, but the activists’ lawyer asked for it to be postponed. It has been rescheduled to 25 December.

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