Defendant in “Yellow Duck” case sentenced to 3 years in prison for “mocking” the King

On 7 March 2023, the Taling Chan Criminal Court convicted “Tonmai” (alias)—a 26-year-old lawyer in a private company—under Section 112 (lèse-majesté) of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to 3 years in prison for mocking and defaming the King by delivering calendars with cartoons of a yellow duck to the buyers. His sentence was decreased to 2 years in light of his valuable testimony.

The police arrested Tonmai on 31 December 2020 at his home, confiscated his phone and the “Yellow Duck” calendars, and detained him at a police station for 2 days. The police stated that the calendars contained images and statements that mocked and defamed the King. The police charged him under Section 112. 

On 2 September 2021, Tonmai was indicted by the prosecutor under Section 112 and was released on bail with a surety of 210,000 baht..

It should be noted that the defense requested the Criminal Court to submit a complaint to the Constitutional Court to consider whether the Order of the National Administrative Reform Council No. 41 (dated 21 October 1976)—which increases the penalty under Section 112 from a prison term not exceeding 7 years to a prison term between 3 to 15 years—has the status of a “law” and whether it is unconstitutional. The Criminal Court submitted this complaint to the Constitutional Court, who later dismissed it on the grounds that the defense’s complaint is similar to another complaint which the Court previously dismissed.

After a 6-day trial, on 7 March 2023, the Court convicted Tonmai under Section 112 and sentenced him to 3 years in prison. The Court noted that the calendars were sold on the Facebook group called “Ratsadon”, which was known to have 3 political goals: (1) resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha; (2) constitutional amendments; and (3) reforms of the monarchy. The Facebook posts invited people to purchase the calendars to support the demonstrators. The Court concluded that the producer of the calendars intended to sell the calendars to followers of the Ratsadon group, who must be aware of the meaning of the calendars.

Furthermore, taking into account the use of the royal vocabulary “bestowed upon” (พระราชทาน) on the first page of the calendar as well as the prosecution witnesses’ testimony that the yellow ducks in the calendar represented King Rama X, the Court concluded the producer and seller of the calendars intended to communicate that the ducks represented King Rama X. 

For example, prosecution witnesses testified that the duck in the “September” page, which was wearing a crop top and sunglasses, was meant to represent King Rama X as there were photos of King Rama X dressed in a similar manner in the past. It could not be said, the witnesses stated, whether said photos of King Rama X were actual photos of the King.

The prosecution witnesses also testified that the duck on the “March” page, which was wearing a condom on its head, undermined and defamed King Rama X.

With respect to the defendant’s testimony, the defendant stated that he was not aware of the content of the calendars as he was merely the deliverer, not the seller, of the calendars. The Court did not find his testimony credible. The Court noted that the defendant has a law degree and must know what the law is. Even if the defendant did not see the internal content in the calendar, the Court stated, he must at least have seen the phrase “calendar bestowed [by the King]” on the first page of the calendar. 

As for the other 2 defense witnesses, the Court stated that their testimonies merely constituted the witnesses’ personal opinions.

For these reasons, the Court found the defendant guilty under Section 112. The 3-year prison term was later decreased to 2 years in light of the defendant’s valuable testimony.

Tonmai was granted bail, with a surety of 70,000 baht, as he is appealing the conviction.

It should be noted that the judgment referred to pages in the calendar that were not the subject of the indictment order in determining the defendant’s guilt. The Court reasoned that these other pages must also be considered in order to understand the meaning of the calendar.