Well-known red-shirt singer pleads guilty to lèse majesté

After being imprisoned for almost two years, a well-known anti-establishment red-shirt country singer recanted earlier statements and pleaded guilty to a lèse majesté charge.

At the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Rd., Bangkok, on Monday morning, Thanat Thanawatcharanon, 58, aka Tom Dundee, a country singer-turned-red-shirt activist, pleaded guilty to an offence under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.

Thanat was indicted on two lèse majesté charges.

In the first case, he was accused of defaming the monarchy in speeches at two anti-establishment red-shirt rallies held by Kotee Red Guard in November 2013. This case is being handled by the Military Court as the YouTube clip of the speech was available online until 27 June 2014 after the coup d’état. He was arrested at his house in Phetchaburi Province in July 2014 and has remained in custody since.

During his imprisonment, he was charged with another offence under Article 112 for two of his speeches that were publicized on YouTube and were online from late 2013 to 26 April 2014. In this case he was also indicted under Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act, against the importation of illegal online information.

Unlike the first lèse majesté charge, the second case is in the Criminal Court as the video clips allegedly defaming the monarchy were deleted before the 2014 coup d’état.

He has so far pleaded guilty only to the second lèse majesté charge in the Criminal Court.

Thanat told Prachatai that he chose to plead guilty because he has been imprisoned for almost two years and he just wants to case to end as soon as possible in order to request a royal pardon. The attorney representing Thanat added that his client might also plead guilty to the other lèse majesté charge in the military court at the upcoming hearing on 21 June 2016.   

After he pleaded guilty, the Criminal Court judges scheduled sentencing for 10 am on 1 June.  

Prior to his arrest, he was charged with defying the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) order to report to the military. He was then released on bail.

Thanat became seriously engaged in politics in 2010 before the red-shirt rally was broken up by the government. He decided to become one of the red-shirt leaders, which meant losing income from his concert tours. He used to do 20-25 concerts per month but after he took part in the movement, most were cancelled.

The red-shirt singer could be imprisoned for up to 30 years on the two lèse majesté charges.

Thanat Thanawatcharanon under custody (file photo)