14 July 2020, around 15.30, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) has been informed by Mr. Kriangkrai Singhon that he was taken by Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) officials and held in custody at the Chiang Khan Police Station in Loey. He was taken there to give a statement as a witness since his personal Facebook “Kriangkrai Singhon” has its cover photo changed to the picture of Mr. Tiwagorn Withiton wearing the T-shirt printed with the text “I have lost faith in the monarchy”. He was released around 17.30 after signing in a report prepared by Chiang Khan police.
According to Mr. Kriangkrai, around 9.00 am that morning, he spotted a Facebook hashtag #saveTiwagorn and was prompted to capture the image of Tiwagorn and repost it, setting his post accessible only for his friends. The photo was posted with the caption “#SaveTiwagorn, stop intimidating the people”. He then proceeded to set the photo as his Facebook cover photo. As a result, it was then automatically accessible to the public.
Then, around 14.00, five vehicles pulled over in front of his stainless-steel shop while he was engaged with his work. Five or six officials, mostly in plainclothes, with firearms on their waists, barged into his shop and cordoned off the area. As they called out the name, “Kriangkrai Singhon”, Kriangkrai identified himself. The officials then introduced themselves as being ISOC officials, military rangers, Border Patrol Police (BPP), and detective officials of the Chiang Khan Police Station, although they neither mentioned their names nor showed their badges. The ISOC officials then informed him that they wanted to invite him to the Chiang Khan Police Station as a witness for they had been informed that he has published the Facebook post which is offensive to His Majesty.
The sudden and unforeseen custody alarmed him and caused apprehension among his family members. He, therefore, agreed to follow them to the Chiang Khan Police Station. With consent from the officials, he drove with his wife and was led by the officials’ vehicles to the police station.
Upon arrival at the Chiang Khan Police Station, he was led by the ISOC officials to meet the inquiry official being followed by BPP officials. While the officials were discussing, he was allowed to come out and talk with some five or six villagers waiting outside the police station. He also took this chance to call his lawyer. While waiting when the officials were discussing among themselves, Kriangkrai spotted an ISOC official who sat behind him and could see his phone’s screen showing the image of Kriangkai’s ID card on Line application; he was startled because he had not given a copy of his ID card to anyone.
Later, the inquiry official summoned Kriangkai for a talk and asked if it was true that he had posted the photo of the man wearing a T-shirt printed with the text “I have lost faith in the monarchy.” They did not yet show him the screenshotted image of his Facebook cover photo. Still, he admitted to posting the image. The inquiry official then told him that he had to sign his name on the police report as evidence.
Kriangkrai further disclosed that he asked the inquiry official if they had pressed any charges on him. The inquiry official said not yet. They said they needed to send the copy of the Facebook post to the Bureau of the Royal Household (BRH) and seek advice if it will be considered offensive to the monarchy or not and how. Kriangkrai further inquired if the BRH said the photo was offensive to the monarchy, what would be the next steps? The inquiry official said the BRH would then authorize the inquiry official to take legal action.
Around 17.00, the inquiry official completed preparing the police report which reads “Pol Cpl Kraisit Saenhkham and others have found the Facebook account in the name of “Kriangkrai Singhon” who had published a photo of a man who wore a T-shirt printed with text in red “I have lost faith in the monarchy” and the photo was shared to the public. Due to being accessible to the public, this photo may create a wrong impression or attitude toward the monarchy. The officials then informed their commanders and have since been instructed to identify this Facebook user. Later it was found that this Facebook user owned a stainless-steel shop in Chiang Khan District, Loey province. The officials have visited the person’s home and taken him to the inquiry official. It was known then that the Facebook user was Mr. Kriangkrai Singhon, 39, who admitted to being the owner of the Facebook account and to having posted the mentioned photo. Both investigators and the Facebook user then met the inquiry official to give information and filed the police report as evidence. Kriangkrai was then asked to sign his name at the end of the report.
After completing the process at the police station, Kriangkrai recalled that he asked Pol Cpl Kraisit, a BPP official, that other hundreds of thousand people also published the similar post, but why none of them had been held to account? Why none of them had been charged for committing lese majeste like him. Pol Cpl Kraisit was taken aback by such inquiry.
Kriangkrai further revealed that from talking with the officials he learned that prior to the crackdown at his shop, the officials met the Village Headman and learned that the person who notified the authorities of his post was a resident in Chiang Khan District.
The stainless-steel shop owner recalled how panic he and his family were when the officials raided their place. They were all shaking uncontrollably and had no idea what to do. They did not even know which mobile applications could be used to record the situation. Upon his return from the police station, he changed his Facebook cover photo to his own picture to lessen his wife’s anxiety. Still, both his wife and son found it is hard to eat and sleep afterward.
As to why Kriangkrai published the photo with the hashtag #saveTiwagorn and set it as his Facebook cover photo, he reveals that, in his opinion, no one who simply exercises their freedom of expression should be treated like what has happened to Tiwagorn. The statement was neither profane nor offensive to anyone. It did not compromise national security. Why did the authorities force Tiwagorn to receive the medical treatment and confine him to a psychiatric hospital? Meanwhile, he just posted Tiwagorn’s photo and simply wished him safety while being subject to the whims of the authorities. However, as a result, he also faced intimidation similar to Tiwagorn’s case and was treated as a terrorist. All of this was unreasonable for him.
Kriangkrai further revealed that previously he has posted many captions with the hashtags including #SavePaiDaoDin and #Save Wanchalearm. However, only this time that he had to face such aggravating intimidation. In his reckoning, the authorities had exercised their power in a crude manner against him because they thought he had defamed the monarchy. He wanted to ask them back as to on what ground they have based their assumption and why did people have to be fearful when exercising their freedom of expression and showing their dissenting views in a democratic country.
Kriangkrai could not understand why the ISOC official had a copy of his ID card in their phone. How could an official have a photo of his ID card? Did the officials even have the right to do that?
Prior to this, Kriangkrai told us that he had joined with local villagers to oppose the Sri Song Rak Floodgates Project in Chiang Khan District in 2017. As the villagers had been campaigning against the issue, he joined them to offer his language skill to help them disseminate their message more effectively in Central Thailand. Also, given his work as a construction contractor, he had a better understanding of the construction project and could help articulate the villagers’ arguments.
Recently he has joined the villagers from the Loey River Conservation Group to submit a letter of petition to demand the review of the Sri Song Rak Floodgates Project during the public hearing on Khong, Loey, Chee and Moon rivers at the Loey Palace Hotel. As a result, he has been subject to surveillance of ISOC and Special Branch officials in Loey Province ever since as they approached him from time to time. He was unsure if the fact that his Facebook post of Tiwagorn’s photo was reported to the authorities had anything to do with his involvement in the protest against the construction of the floodgates or if the lese majeste was used as a form of harassment because of his conflict with those who supported the construction.