On 15 June 2020, the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court is scheduled to deliver a verdict of the case against ten defendants who shared a post from the KonthaiUK Facebook page. Authorized by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), Major General Burin Thongprapai filed complaints against the defendants. Subsequently, acting as a plaintiff in this case, the public prosecutor from the Executive Office of Attorney-General’s 6th Division on Criminal Cases indicted them under Sections 14(2) and (5) of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. The Court eventually dismissed the case because it found that the shared post contained some truth, not misinformation as alleged by the plaintiff. Furthermore, the dissemination of the post does not constitute any violation of the law.
At 10:30 AM, at Trial Room No. 915, the ten defendants and their lawyer arrived at the Court. The judge then delivered the ruling for the defendants as encapsulated below:
The Court noted that the ten defendants had shared the post from the KonthaiUK Facebook page, published on 13 June 2018, with the following caption:
“I will [sic] bring some people to apologize to you at your doorstep. Don’t run away. 10 Downing ST. Westminster, London. SW1A 2AA
20 June: Uncle Tu (Referring to Prayut Chan-Ocha) took his wife and children to seek asylum in the UK.
22 June: Supreme Court accepted to review the charge of insurrection against Uncle Doggie (Also referring to Prayut Chan-Ocha as adding a letter P to his nickname TU (Tup) means a dog)”
The post also contains a photo of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan with the text saying:
“Sorry, Sorry, Sorry. We apologize to our two brothers. We simply reported the news that our brothers- Big Tu and Big Pom- will buy satellites worth THB91,200 million, only to be kept in the storage and collect some fees from the procurer. If you’re not buying them anymore, that’s fine. No need to issue an arrest warrant against me. If it isn’t true, why are you showing a guilty conscience? Or are you struggling to accept the truth?”
The Court further noted that the NCPO had authorized the accuser to file complaints against the defendants allegedly for intentionally publishing or disseminating false information into a computer system in a manner that is likely to jeopardize the country’s national security or cause a public panic.
The Court concluded that the post shared by the defendants contained some truth, not misinformation as alleged by the plaintiff. Meanwhile, the prosecution witnesses explicitly had pro-government ideologies and belonged to a political opposition to the defendants. Furthermore, their dissemination of the post also does not constitute any violation of the law; it was a lawful expression of criticisms which neither stirred up public panic nor damaged national security. Therefore, the Court decided to dismiss the case and acquitted all the defendants.
This case started in June 2018. Major General Burin Thongprapai was granted authorization from the NCPO to file complaints against the administrator of the KonthaiUK Facebook page to the police. Later, the police found that several hundred users widely shared this Facebook post; nonetheless, they decided to press charges against only the ten defendants.
On 28 February 2019, the public prosecutor decided to indict the ten defendants, charging them with a criminal offense under Section 14(5) of the Computer Crimes Act. Every defendant denied the charge and chose to fight the lawsuit. They were then released on bail worth 100,000 baht per person. The witness examination trials had taken place from 4 to 7 February 2020. (Read more about the details of the case at Witness testimonies before the verdict date: (In Thai) Does sharing of a FB post about Prayut seeking asylum after facing an insurrection charge jeopardize national security?)
The full process from the day the defendants were charged to the verdict date took more than two years.
Only one of the numerous cases against NCPO critics, Court ended up dismissing most cases
Previously, during 2018, there had been several similar cases against those who disseminated criticisms against the NCPO on an online platform. Most of the accused lived outside Bangkok. The police often arrested them without a court warrant and organized a press conference to announce the arrests. However, after the public prosecutor indicted them, the Court often ended up dismissing most cases.
For instance, Rinda Ponsiripitak was charged under Section 14 of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act for sharing the news that General Prayut Chan-ocha and his wife transferred 10 billion baht to a bank in Singapore. The Criminal Court later acquitted her, stating that, while the post may damage the reputation of those mentioned in it, it does not affect the country’s security. Furthermore, the plaintiff did not present any evidence indicating whether or not the shared post contained misinformation.
The same charges were also brought against some people who shared a post from the “I must have received 100 million baht from Thaksin” Facebook page. Notably, the post criticized the NCPO’s inefficient drug suppression policies and its attempts to “suck” MPs into the junta-dominated Palang Pracharat Party. The Court dismissed this case on a similar rationale, affirming that the post merely damages the reputation of the NCP, yet, in no way, threatens the national security.
Lastly, in March 2020, the public prosecutor decided to indict 21 people for sharing another post from the KonthaiUK Facebook page about the alleged corruption of the government’s submarine procurement. The inquiry proceedings of this case took more than two years. There are currently 31 people in total who had been subject to a lawsuit for sharing posts from this Facebook page.
These cases reflect the trend of using strategic lawsuits to discourage or prevent the public from exercising their rights to make criticisms, present information, or express their political opinions related to the government during the NCPO era.
Read more related stories:
As if the NCPO Never Left: Six Years After the Coup and the Persistence of Human Rights Violations
Posting rumors about the junta’s leader isn’t sedition but normal defamation, fall under civilian court jurisdiction
Recap of the case against the ‘Facebook 8’ on 29 April: Military Court denied bail requests of the Facebook page admin suspects