Article 112, the lese majeste law, is now back in play after it has been absent for approximately two years.
It is illegal in Thailand to defame, insult, or threaten the king, queen, heir-apparent, heir-presumptive, or regent. The crime carries a sentence of three to 15 years of imprisonment per count.
According to reports, key pro-democracy activists Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panussaya “Rung” Sitthijirawatthanakul, and Panupong “Mike” Jadnok have all received police summons to answer the complaints of Article 112.
By law, anyone can file legal complaints over 112 against anyone.
Worth noting are these four lese majeste cases.
According to i-Law, in 2015 (when we were still under the junta regime), a man named Wichai was convicted of impersonating the king in a fake Facebook account. He posted content considered insulting to the monarchy. He was convicted and sentenced to 70 years in prison by the military court. But due to his confession, the sentence was commuted by half.
Second, in 2017, famous royal critic Sor Siwarak was charged with Article 112 over a comment deemed insulting to King Naresuan the Great, from the Ayutthaya era. The king passed away in 1605, that’s over 400 years ago. But the military court dismissed the case.
Third, and the most famous recent case, is Pai Daodin, one of the key pro-democracy activists. In 2016, he was found guilty of Article 112 for sharing on Facebook a BBC article of His Majesty King Rama 10’s biography. He served two-and-a-half years.
Fourth, Ampon Tangnopakul, nicknamed Uncle SMS, or Ah Gong. In 2010, he was convicted of sending four SMS messages deemed insulting to the queen. The SMS texts were sent to the phone of Somkiat Khrongwatthanasuk, secretary of then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Somkiat then informed the police. Ampon was arrested, found guilty, and given a 20-year sentence. He passed away in prison in 2012 at the age of 64.
What do these examples mean?
It means, from a fake Facebook account to saying something about a king who lived over 400 years ago, to the sharing of a news article, to private text messages, to the fact that anyone can file complaints against anyone and the police have these complaints to use at any time – Article 112 is the most feared law in Thailand.
Because of its gravity, bails are rarely given. Therefore, if the key activists are arrested over lese majeste, a bail release will be unlikely.
Furthermore, Article 112 will break you down mentally and emotionally due to the heavy prison terms. In most cases, the defendants would confess to get the sentence reduced, as in the case of Wichai mentioned earlier.