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|17-01-2013, 04:28 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Aug 2007
Thai comedian and 'red-shirt' leader jailed for royal insult
Thai comedian and 'red-shirt' leader jailed for royal insult
17 January 201
Yossawaris Chuklom is a prominent "red-shirt", the group that led Bangkok protests in 2010
A prominent member of Thailand's "red-shirt" political movement has been jailed for two years for insulting the monarchy in a 2010 speech.
Activist and comedian Yossawaris Chuklom, who uses the stage name Jeng Dokchik, made the speech at a rally in Bangkok during political protests.
People found guilty under Thailand's strict lese majeste laws can face up to 15 years in prison.
Critics of the law say it has been used to suppress free speech.
Thailand has endured political upheaval since a military coup in 2006 which ousted then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who went into exile.
In March 2010, "red-shirt" protesters - many of whom supported Mr Thaksin - occupied key parts of the capital, Bangkok, demanding the government of then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva step down.
More than 90 people, both civilians and soldiers, were killed in the protests, which went on for over two months.
A lawyer for Mr Yossawaris said he had originally been sentenced to three years but that the judge reduced it to two because he had given useful evidence.
Thamrong Lakdaen said his client intended to appeal against the verdict, and would apply for bail.
Mr Yossawaris currently serves as an advisor to Thailand's deputy commerce minister in a government led by Mr Thaksin's sister, who won elections in 2011.
Thailand's lese majeste laws are intended to protect the monarchy, headed by 85-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
But critics say they have been increasingly politicised and used to curb free speech.
The discussion intensified after a Thai man in his 60s who was jailed for 20 years for sending text messages deemed offensive to the royal family died in prison last year.
|17-01-2013, 06:23 PM||#3 (permalink)|
Join Date: Aug 2007
In Thailand, a Broader Definition of Insulting Royalty
January 17, 2013
BANGKOK — It has become almost routine in Thailand for judges to hand down jail sentences to those convicted of offending the country’s king. But an unusual ruling issued on Thursday appears to considerably broaden the interpretation of Thailand’s already restrictive lese majesté law.
In sentencing a former protest leader to two years in prison, a court ruled that the defendant was liable not only for what he said, but for what he left unsaid.
The criminal court’s ruling said the defendant, Yossawarit Chuklom, had not specifically mentioned the king when he gave a speech in 2010 to a large group of people who were protesting a military-backed government of the time.
But by making a gesture of being muzzled -- placing his hands over his mouth -- Mr. Yossawarit had insinuated that he was talking about the king.
“Even though the defendant did not identify his Majesty the King directly,” the court ruled, Mr. Yossawarit’s speech “cannot be interpreted any other way.”
Thailand’s lese majesté law, one of the world’s most restrictive, has been invoked frequently as King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 85, enters his twilight years.
In recent years, dozens of people have been convicted for insulting the king and his family. Among the cases were a Swiss man sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2007 for defacing posters of the king; a naturalized American citizen convicted in 2011 for translating a banned biography of the king that asserted that he has been more involved in politics than his generally recognized in Thailand; and a Thai truck driver who received a 20-year prison term for sending explicit text messages that insulted the king and queen.
The judgment on Thursday appears to have been the first time that someone was convicted for implying an insult, said the defendant’s lawyer, Thamrong Lakdaen.
“There was no mention of the king’s name in the speech,” Mr. Thamrong said. “It’s all interpretation.”
Mr. Thamrong said the court used “speculation” to convict his client.
Thai law calls for prison sentences of up to 15 years for “insulting, defaming or threatening” three members of the royal family: the king, the queen and the crown prince.
Mr. Yossawarit, the defendant, is currently an adviser to the Commerce Ministry. In 2010, he was a leading member of the “red shirt” movement that was seeking the dissolution of the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Mr. Yossawarit told a crowd of protesters in March 2010 that there were a number of people who opposed the dissolution of the government. He named the military and the head of the privy council, Prem Tinsulandonda, among others.
But there were also someone else, he said, placed his hands over his mouth. “I am not brave enough to say it. But I know what are you thinking right now,” he told the crowed. “So I will keep my mouth shut.”
The court ruled that it was obvious whom Mr. Yossawarit was talking about. During the trial Thai citizens with no apparent connection to the case were called to the stand and asked to whom they thought Mr. Yossawarit was referring. All of the witnesses said the king.
Mr. Yossawarit initially pled guilty to the charges – a common tactic by those seeking a royal pardon. But he changed his plea and contested the case. He plans to appeal Thursday’s verdict, his lawyer said.
The government has established a special unit that monitors the internet for royal insults. The official censors went as far as to recently block access to the webpage that reproduced the text of the historical document that ended the absolute monarchy in the country in 1932.
The king has suffered from a number of illnesses not completely explained by the palace and has been residing in a special suite of a Bangkok hospital since September 2009.
|21-01-2013, 03:49 PM||#5 (permalink)|
Join Date: Aug 2007
Thailand’s latest lèse majesté sentencing: intent on trial
Saksith Saiyasombut & Siam Voices
Jan 21, 2013
Thailand’s draconian lèse majesté law continues to curb freedom of expression and has arguably reached a new level of arbitrariness with the most recent sentencing:
A Thai court has sentenced a leader of the Red Shirt political movement to two years in prison for a speech judged to have insulted the country’s monarchy.
A Thai court today sentenced a government adviser, who helped lead protests in 2010 against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, to two years in prison for insulting the royal family.While Yossawaris can not be considered as one of the highest-ranking red shirt leaders – of which there were many during the 2010 protests – his sentencing still needs special attention.
In sentencing a former protest leader to two years in prison, a court ruled that the defendant was liable not only for what he said, but also for what he left unsaid.This is indeed a new dimension of how arbitrarily lèse majesté is being applied here, on top of an already ambiguously written law (“insulting, defaming or threatening”): As many other lèse majesté (e.g. Ampon’s) or similar cases (e.g. Chiranuch’s) have shown, the principle is actually “in dubio contra reo” (“when in doubt, decide against the accused”) for many different reasons. Since the presumption of innocence doesn’t apply here, the prosecution is mostly not interested in the actual evidence (or the lack of in some cases), but rather in the “intent” of the alleged crime.
David Streckfuss, a Khon Kaen-based academic and expert on the lèse majesté law, wrote in an academic article in 1995 – long before the recent surge of cases – about the rationale of these cases, since “the truth or accuracy of the defendant’s words is irrelevant to the case. The defendant’s intent is determined by its hypothetical effect” (p. 452). Taking the case of then-Democrat Party secretary general (and later Thai Rak Thai executive and even later red shirt leader) Veera Musikapong from the 1980s, Streckfuss has deduced five ‘principles’ that highlight the absurd mechanics of this draconian law – here’s an excerpt:
The First Principle: Truth and Intent are Subordinated to Presumed EffectAs of now, Yossawaris has appealed his sentencing. Meanwhile on Wednesday, the criminal court is expected to read their verdict against veteran labor activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, who is charged for editing articles in a news magazine that were deemed insulting to the monarchy. Lèse majesté continues to make headlines in 2013 and those defending it still find it hard to realize that with each case…
“The end result is that the dynamic of this law do more damage to the monarchy than its critics could ever hope.”____________________
About the author:
Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and freelance foreign correspondent based in Bangkok, Thailand. He writes about Thai politics and current affairs since 2010 and is also reports for international news media such as Channel NewsAsia. You can follow him on Twitter @Saksith.
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