Summons from Deep South: Woman from Nonthaburi charged for Article 112 lost 15,000 baht over travel&accommodation costs

On 22 June 2021, at 08:00 am, Ms. Kanlaya (Pseudonym), a 27-year-old employee of a private company in Nonthaburi province, close to Bangkok, reported to Su-ngai Kolok District Police Station in Narathiwat province, Thailand’s Deep South, to acknowledge her charges under the “lese majeste” provisions of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, as well as Article 14(3) of the Computer Crimes Act. Mr. Pasit Chanhuaton filed these charges against her with the inquiry officer at this police station due to four of her online activities in which she posted, shared, and commented on Facebook about the monarchy.

This trip for acknowledging the charges costed Kanlaya up to 15,000 THB. It also made her afraid that her status as a defendant in this case would affect her employment status in her current company in Nonthaburi province.

According to police officers, Mr. Pasit Chanhuaton has accused at least five persons of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code and filed the charges at this police station in Su-gnai Kolok. Currently, the authorities have gradually started to issue summonses for these accused persons to acknowledge their charges.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)’s documentation records, as of 22 June 2021, at least 101 persons have been charged under Article 112 in 98 cases since the enforcement of this article has resumed in late November 2020. Remarkably, ordinary “citizens” filed the charge to law enforcement in at least 45 of these cases.

>>  The Number of Prosecutions under “Lèse Majesté” in 2020-2021

Previously, Kanlaya received a summons from Acting Pol. Maj. Natee Chansaengsri, an inquiry officer from Su-ngai Kolok District Police Station. Dated 17 May 2021, the summons required her to acknowledge her charge in person on 7 June 2021. Nonetheless, the document arrived at Kanlaya’s permanent address in Phayao province on 6 June 2021, and Kanlaya has a full-time job as an employee of a private company in Nonthaburi province. She, therefore, was not available to travel to Su-ngai Kolok District Police Station to acknowledge her charges on the date specified in the summons and asked to postpone the appointment to 22 June 2021.

At 08:00 am, Kanlaya, together with her lawyer, met with Acting Pol. Maj. Natee Chansaengsri, an inspector specialized in inquiry at the Su-ngai Kolok District Police Station. He was the officer who informed Kanlaya of her charges and relevant facts and circumstances that led to such charges.

The inquiry officer explained the facts and circumstances of this case to Kanlaya. He said in summary that Mr. Pasit Chanhuaton, the accuser, was using Facebook when he came across one Facebook user posting images and four messages referring to the monarchy. The messages include a criticism of the monarchy’s role in relation to the political protests and a shared post from the Facebook user named “Tanawat Wongchai,” which said, “If you dare, revoke Article 112, and I’ll tell you more!!!”

The accuser claimed that these messages maliciously referred to the King in an accusatorial manner. Therefore, he decided to file the charges with the inquiry officer.

The inquiry officer issued a summons for the accused to acknowledge her charges and informed her of the two charges, including one of “lese majeste” under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and the other under Article 14(3) of the Computer Crimes Act.

After acknowledging the facts and circumstances of this case, Kanlaya denied all charges and agreed to provide supplementary information via letter.

Later, at 2:00 pm, the inquiry officer informed Kanlaya that they would take her to Court to request for holding her in remand at the Narathiwat Provincial Court, even though she reported to them in accordance with the summons.

The inquiry officer claimed in the document for requesting the remand that the authorities would need to inquire four more witnesses and take some time to check the accused’s criminal records. Therefore, they would like to request holding her in remand for 12 days; however, they would not have any objections should the accused apply for bail. It must be noted that the inquiry officer processed the remand request via video conference as part of the measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Later, the Narathiwat Provincial Court authorized the remand, and Kanlaya’s lawyer then filed a bail request to the Court. The Court granted bail for her upon providing the surety of 150,000 THB; the money was drawn from the Ratsadonprasong Fund. The Court did not determine any condition for the release; Kanlaya was simply scheduled to report to the Court again on 9 August 2021.

After receiving bail, Kanlaya revealed that she felt anxious and stressed because she had to travel a far distance to acknowledge the charges in Narathiwat province, even though she lives in Nonthaburi province. She added that she had to take a flight to Hat Yai district of Songkhla province in the evening of the previous day and drive to Su-ngai Kolok Police Station in Narathiwat province in the early morning. She left her accommodation at 4:00 am and arrived at the police station at 8:00 am.