Military court sets record lèse majesté sentence of 30 years

A Thai military court has sentenced a man accused of defaming the Thai monarchy on a social network to 30 years in jail in a trial held in camera. The ruling is the heaviest jail term ever recorded for a lèse majesté case.

On Friday morning, 7 August 2015, the Bangkok Military Court sentenced Pongsak S. to 60 years imprisonment for offences under Article 112 or the lèse majesté law and Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act (importing illegal content into a computer system).

The court gave a 10-year prison term for each of six lèse majesté counts. Since the suspect pleaded guilty as charged, the court halved the sentence to 30 years in jail.

Pongsak used Facebook under the name “Sam Parr” to distribute messages and images defaming the monarchy, which he copied from other sources. At a press conference in January 2015, he pleaded guilty to all charges and said he did so because he was prompted by some Facebook friends. He also said that he went to anti-establishment red-shirt demonstrations.

He told Prachatai that he was tricked into meeting a decoy who had been talking to him via Facebook under the name ‘Num Bannok Rak Seri’ (freedom-loving country boy) in the northern province of Tak and was arrested on 30 December 2014 at a bus station in Phitsanulok Province.    

“It turned out when I met the guy at the military base later that he was an officer,” said Phongsak.

He added that the investigating officers forced him into giving all his Facebook and email passwords after his arrest.  

According to Sasinan Thamnithinan, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) representing the defendant, Phongsak submitted a request to the court prior to the ruling to ask the court to lighten the sentence because he has to take care of his elderly parents. However, the military court judges dismissed the request.

The judges read the verdict in camera, saying that the case is sensitive to public morale since it is related to the revered Thai monarchy.   

Pongsak was on the list of 17 people summoned by the junta on 9 June 2014 and was charged with violating the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) summons by not reporting in.

In March 2015, the military court sentenced him to six months in prison for not reporting to the coup-makers in 2014, but the jail term was suspended.