Thailand has some of the world’s most severe sets of laws when it comes to protecting the monarchy with both the Lese majeste Law and the Computer Crimes Act.
Unfortunately these laws are often abused and used for political reasons and have steadily increased since the 2006 coup and reached a high of 478 charges last year under the Government of Abhisit Vejjajiva.
The severest sentence for lese majeste was given to a journalist known as “Da Torpedo”. Daranee Charncherngsilapakul was given 18 years for damaging the “reputation and honor” of the king and queen of Thailand in 2009.
Yesterday at the Criminal Court a panel of Judges arrived at 9:45 am. The three Judges Chanatip Mueanpawong, Judge Anukoon Nakrueangsri and Judge Pattawan Songkampon passed a guilty verdict on 61-year-old Ampol Tangnopakul who barely reads and writes and sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment for sending SMS messages to a phone belonging to Abhisit Vejjajiva’s personal secretary a Mr.Somkiat Krongwattanasuk. The messages were deemed insulting to the Queen of Thailand.
Ampol Tangnopakul who has poor eyesight lived with his wife, his daughter-in-law and her three children in a small rented room in Samut Prakan province. He suffers from cancer and requires regular medical treatment and care and has been detained without bail since 18 January 2011.
He was found guilty even though there was no solid evidence he actually sent the four SMS.
The Motorola telephone was said to have had NO Thai keyboard. Yet the phone was not presented in court as evidence and under cross examination Police Lt.Col. Narong said he couldn’t remember if the confiscated phone had a Thai keyboard or not.
It is also worth noting that the police needed 2 linguistic experts to identify if the SMS’es sent were in fact lese-majeste texts.
The Defense Witness No.3 was Ampol Tangnopakul 11 year old granddaughter who testified that she is a granddaughter of the defendant and they live together she also confirmed that her grandfather often left his phone at home while he took her to school.
She also testified that she has never seen her grandfather send SMS’es to anybody.
She added that her grandfather took her to sign the royal guestbook at Siriraj hospital during her summer vacation in 2009. This is where the Thai King has resided under medical care for the last few years.
Taking the time and traveling to Bangkok with his granddaughter to sign the royal guestbook shows he must have cared and respected the monarchy and not the type of person who would send such SMS’es.
He has been given one month to decide to appeal or not.
Full details of the court can be read at http://ilaw.or.th/node/1229