On 12 September 2022, the Bangkok South Criminal Court sentenced Ms. Jatuporn “New” Sae-Ung, a 26-year-old pro-democracy activist, to 3 years of imprisonment for the violation of Section 112 and 1,500 baht fine for violating the Public Assembly Act. The lèse-majesté law is one of Thailand’s strictest Criminal Code. The accusation made against Jatuporn was that she wore a Thai national dress to impersonate Queen Suthida. Her sentence was reduced to 2 years and 1,000 baht fine, respectively, thanks to her useful testimony.
On 14 September 2022, the Court of Appeals granted bail to Jatuporn, subjecting to three conditions: (1) do not commit acts similar to those stated in the prosecutor’s allegation and/or participate in any activity that causes public disorder; (2) do not participate and/or commit any act that tarnishes the monarchy’s reputation; and (3) do not travel outside of the Kingdom’s territory without first obtaining approval from the court. The bail amount was set at 200,000 baht, provided by the Will of the People Fund (Ratsadonprasong Fund).
Jatuporn is on temporary release with bail conditions after being detained in the Central Women’s Correctional Institution in Bangkok for three days. She pledges to appeal the verdict to the Court of Appeals.
From A Fashion Catwalk criticizing tax money to lèse-majesté defaming Thailand’s Queen
On 29 October 2020, Jatuporn participated in the “My Tax” (ภาษีกู) protest with a fashion show twist on Silom Road. The protest criticized the transparency of the Ministry of Finance for the utilization of tax money amounting 13 million baht to fund a fashion brand owned by King Vajiralongkorn’s daughter, SIRIVANNAVARI.
Jathuporn, wearing a pink Thai national dress, carrying a golden purse, walking down the red carpet, was escorted by a man dressed in a Thai traditional dress holding an umbrella for her and a woman carrying a golden pedestal tray (Phan Thong). While making her way through the red carpet, a woman prostrated herself on the ground in front of Jatuporn who, in turn, stopped and reached her hand out to the protesters. At this point, an unknown individual hailed “the Queen” as the song “Royal Guards March” was playing in the background. Some exclaimed “Long Live Her Majesty” and “The Queen”.
After the incident, Waritsanan Sribawornthanakit, an admin of a Prayuth-supporting Facebook page called “Cheer Lung (เชียร์ลุง)” filed a criminal complaint alleging that Jatuporn’s conduct impersonating and mocking the Queen, thereby devaluing the institution of the monarchy.
Jatuporn was subsequently charged with the violation of Section 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code, the Emergency Decree, the Public Assembly Act, the Communicable Disease Act, and the Advertisement by Using Sound Amplifiers Control Act.
Having examined 14 prosecutor’s witnesses and two defendant’s witnesses during June 2022, the Bangkok South Criminal Court acquitted Jatuporn of all charges with the exception of those brought under Section 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code and the Public Assembly Act. Considering the totality of circumstances at the time of the fashion show on 29 October 2020, the court ruled that Jatuporn intended to impersonate, mock, and dishonor the Queen. This was tantamount to defamation against the Queen.
A Statement from Courtroom “I do not intend to mock anyone”
Jatuporn affirms her belief to the court stating that dressing up in Thai National Dress is a right that any individual can choose to do so and if one chooses to dress up, it is not a crime. The fact that her dressing up on the day of the incident is a violation of section 112 is purely a vague interpretation by the plaintiff and her witnesses.
“Your honor, today I am wearing Thai national dress, is there something wrong with me here? I do not intend to mock anyone.” a statement made by Jatuporn in the courtroom right after the court’s verdict on 12 September before being transferred to Central Women’s Correctional Institution in Bangkok.
“In a polarized society, Lèse-majesté law becomes a tool used to harm those who think differently. In this case, the individual who accused her (Jatuporn) was of the opposite political view.” commented Weeranan Huadsri, a human rights lawyer who represented Jatuporn on 12 September 2022.
It should be noted that, as of 15 September 2022, there are at least 210 individuals of 229 cases have been prosecuted under lèse-majesté due to their political participation and expression since the beginning of the “Free Youth Movement” on 18 July 2020. This number includes 17 children under 18 years old.
For relevant information, please refer to;
Lèse-majesté cases during the NCPO regime: https://tlhr2014.com/en/archives/19506
The number of prosecutions under lèse-majesté in 2020-2022: https://tlhr2014.com/en/archives/24103