On 30 March 2023, the Central Juvenile and Family Court acquitted Sainam of offenses under Sections 112 (lèse-majesté), 217 (arson), and 358 (destruction of property) of the Criminal Code. The judgment stated that the prosecution failed to prove that the perpetrator who vandalized and set fire to the King’s portrait was Sainam. The Court, however, convicted him under the Emergency Decree for participating in the protest. Because Sainam was 17 years old (i.e., below 18) at the time of the offense, the Court reduced the sentence by one-half and fined him 6,000 baht. In light of his valuable testimony, the fine was later reduced to 4,000 baht.
This case arose from a pro-democracy protest on 18 July 2021 called “Take Back Our Country, Chase Away Parasites”, where the protesters marched from the Democracy Monument to the Government House. Sainam was accused of pasting 2 papers with messages “CANCEL LAW 112” and “Give me back time in my life” on a portrait of the King. He was also accused of spraying profanity over the phrase “Long Live The King” on the portrait. Finally, the prosecutor accused him of setting fire to the decorative cloth below the portrait as well as the portrait itself.
At the time of the incident, Sainam was 17 years old.
Sainam was charged and indicted under Sections 112 (lèse-majesté), 217 (arson), 358 (destruction of property) of the Criminal Code, and the Emergency Decree. He denied all charges.
The defense insisted that Sainam was not the person who vandalized and set fire to the portrait. They also insisted that statements pasted on the portrait do not constitute a criminal offense.
Sainam requested that the Court allow third parties to enter the courtroom to listen to the judgment
Before the Court delivered the judgment, Sainam submitted a request to the Court, asking the Court to allow third parties to enter the courtroom to listen to the judgment. The Court initially denied this request, explaining that the Court had been fair throughout the trial and no one had power over the Court. Even if third parties were granted permission to enter the courtroom, the Court noted, their presence would not have any impact on the judgment.
In response, Sainam insisted that the Court permit third parties to enter the courtroom. He engaged in an act of civil disobedience by sitting down in the middle of the courtroom, his back facing the judges. He informed the Court that he would continue to turn his back to the judges as they read the judgment if they do not grant him his request.
After consulting a panel of judges, the Court granted Sainam his request. However, because the courtroom is small, the court did not allow every third party to enter the courtroom. Use of mobile phones in the courtroom was strictly prohibited.
The Court held that there was insufficient evidence to establish that the perpetrator in the “photos” who vandalized the King’s portrait was Sainam
The Court held that there was insufficient evidence to establish that the person who vandalized and set fire to the King’s portrait in the photos from a Facebook group was Sainam. The photos do not show the face of the person therein. Furthermore, the Court noted that the police did not question the author of the post in the Facebook group, casting doubts on the credibility of these photos. The police also did not compare the fingerprints on the papers pasted on the King’s portrait and the spray can with those of Sainam.
It is noteworthy that the prosecution did not produce a single eyewitness to testify in court that Sainam did the acts of which he was accused.
A prosecution witness, who is a police investigator in Sainam’s case, testified that he found photos on a Facebook group (i.e., Prat Samsi (ปราชญ์ สามสี)) of a person in black shirt and pants, as well as a helmet, identified by the author of the post as “Mr. Sainam”.The person in the photos appeared to be spraying paint and setting fire to the King’s portrait. The face of the person in the photos, however, could not be seen. The witness also testified that he found a social media post by Sainam dated 16 July 2021, stating “See you on 18” with photos of protest equipment. These, coupled with 2 photos of Sainam taken during the protest by the authorities, led the witness to believe that the person in the photos posted in the Facebook group is Sainam.
During cross-examination, the prosecution witness testified that he was not the person who compiled the photos at issue from Prat Samsi group. He also did not send the photos to be authenticated and verified that they had not been edited or photoshopped. He also testified that there was no photo showing Sainam’s face while engaging in the acts of which he was accused. The witness admitted that it is possible that, because many people joined the protest on the day of the incident, many of whom wore similar protest equipment, another person, not Sainam, may have been the one who vandalized and set fire to the King’s portrait.
Accordingly, it is not established that Sainam was the person in the photos who vandalized and set fire to the King’s portrait. Doubts are to be resolved in favor of the defendant.
The Court convicted Sainam under the Emergency Decree for participating in the protest
With respect to the charge under the Emergency Decree, the Court held that the evidence established that Sainam participated in the protest on 18 July 2021. At the time, the Emergency Decree was still in force. Sainam was not wearing a mask during the protest and did not comply with public health measures.
For these reasons, the Court convicted Sainam under the Emergency Decree. Because Sainam was 17 years old at the time of the incident, the Court reduced the sentence by one-half and fined him 6,000 baht. Due to Sainam’s valuable testimony during trial, the fine was later reduced to 4,000 baht.
Sainam’s case marked the first children’s case in which a child (at the time of the offense) who was charged under Thailand’s lèse-majesté law and refused to confess to the crime was acquitted by the Court. In the first 2 children’s cases in November and December 2022, both against “Petch”, the Court found “Petch” guilty of lèse-majesté. Both cases are on appeal.