On 1 October 2013, Sonthi Limthongkul, royalist-nationalist People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leader and owner of the р╕Ьр╕╣р╣Йр╕Ир╕▒р╕Фр╕Бр╕▓р╕г/Manager/ASTV media conglomerate, was found guilty of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 2 years in prison by the Appeal Court. The Appeal Court reversed the decision of the Court of First Instance, which found Sonthi to be not-guilty on 26 September 2012. The case stemmed from his repetition during a 20 July 2008 PAD rally on Sanam Luang of comments made by Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul, journalist and red shirt activist, who had uttered them 3 days earlier to a rally attended by members of the nascent red shirt movement. Late last week, JPEGs of the two court decisions were posted as part of an article on the р╕Ьр╕╣р╣Йр╕Ир╕▒р╕Фр╕Бр╕▓р╕г site. The entirety of both decisions are well worth a close read, as they inscribe another rule for the correct behavior of those (who profess to be) loyal to the monarchy.
At issue for both the Court of First Instance and the Appeal Court is whether or not Sonthi intended to defame, insult, or threaten the monarchy by his repetition of Daranee’s comments. One of the fascinating aspects of his case is that he stood trial not for his own statements, nor even for the laudatory circulation of another person’s statements, but for the repetition of allegedly anti-monarchical claims in the service of critiquing them. By convicting Sonthi of violating Article 112, the Appeal Court has indicated that this too, is a crime, albeit a lesser one. Daranee’s initial sentence was for 18 years in prison, which, although later reduced to 15 years by the Appeal Court, is far higher than the 2 years meted out to Sonthi. It is also worth noting that Sonthi remains out on bail while he appeals the decision with the Supreme Court. At no time during the period in which her case was on appeal was Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul granted bail, despite her grave health problems.
In the testimony in the Court of First Instance, the defense began by focussing on Sonthi’s loyalty to the monarchy. As included in the decision of the Court of First Instance, “ …but he has a different intention than Mrs. or Ms. Daranee, because the defendant intends to protect the monarchy with loyalty” [“…р╣Бр╕Хр╣Ир╕Др╕Щр╕ер╕░р╣Ар╕Ир╕Хр╕Щр╕▓р╕Бр╕▒р╕Ър╕Щр╕▓р╕Зр╕лр╕гр╕╖р╕нр╕Щр╕▓р╕Зр╕кр╕▓р╕зр╕Фр╕▓р╕гр╕Ур╕╡р╣Ар╕Юр╕гр╕▓р╕░р╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╕бр╕╡р╣Ар╕Ир╕Хр╕Щр╕▓р╕Ыр╕Бр╕Ыр╣Йр╕нр╕Зр╕кр╕Цр╕▓р╕Ър╕▒р╕Щр╕Юр╕гр╕░р╕бр╕лр╕▓р╕Бр╕йр╕▒р╕Хр╕гр╕┤р╕вр╣Мр╕Фр╣Йр╕зр╕вр╕Др╕зр╕▓р╕бр╕Ир╕Зр╕гр╕▒р╕Бр╕ар╕▒р╕Др╕Фр╕╡”] as displayed in the various publications and media sources under his control.
Sonthi was a leader of the PAD, whose goal was to protect the three pillars of the nation, religion, and monarchy. He was pushed to repeat Daranee’s statements and call for her arrest, because state security officers had stood by and done nothing: “Metropolitan police officers from Chana Songkhram station, Special Branch, and every branch of the military involved with national security were there. It was a crime in line with the Article 112 of the Criminal Code, and they were able to arrest her immediately but they did not. They allowed it to happen again and again” [“р╕бр╕╡р╣Ар╕Ир╣Йр╕▓р╕лр╕Щр╣Йр╕▓р╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╕Хр╕│р╕гр╕зр╕Ир╕кр╕Цр╕▓р╕Щр╕╡р╕Хр╕│р╕гр╕зр╕Ир╕Щр╕Др╕гр╕Ър╕▓р╕ер╕Кр╕Щр╕░р╕кр╕Зр╕Др╕гр╕▓р╕б р╕кр╕▒р╕Щр╕Хр╕┤р╕Ър╕▓р╕е р╕Чр╕лр╕▓р╕гр╕Чр╕╕р╕Бр╕лр╕Щр╣Ир╕зр╕вр╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╣Ар╕Бр╕╡р╣Ир╕вр╕зр╕Вр╣Йр╕нр╕Зр╕Бр╕▒р╕Ър╕Др╕зр╕▓р╕бр╕бр╕▒р╣Ир╕Щр╕Др╕Зр╣Бр╕лр╣Ир╕Зр╕Кр╕▓р╕Хр╕┤р╕нр╕вр╕╣р╣Ир╣Гр╕Щр╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╕Щр╕▒р╣Йр╕Щр╣Ар╕Ыр╣Зр╕Щр╕Др╕зр╕▓р╕бр╕Ьр╕┤р╕Фр╕Лр╕╢р╣Йр╕Зр╕лр╕Щр╣Йр╕▓р╕Хр╕▓р╕бр╕Ыр╕гр╕░р╕бр╕зр╕ер╕Бр╕Ор╕лр╕бр╕▓р╕вр╕нр╕▓р╕Нр╕▓ р╕бр╕▓р╕Хр╕гр╕▓ р╣Ср╣Ср╣Т р╕кр╕▓р╕бр╕▓р╕гр╕Цр╕Ир╕▒р╕Ър╕Бр╕╕р╕бр╣Др╕Фр╣Йр╕Чр╕▒р╕Щр╕Чр╕╡р╣Бр╕Хр╣Ир╣Др╕бр╣Ир╕Бр╕гр╕░р╕Чр╕│р╕Ыр╕ер╣Ир╕нр╕вр╣Гр╕лр╣Йр╕Бр╕гр╕░р╕Чр╕│р╕Лр╣Йр╕│р╣Бр╕ер╣Йр╕зр╕Лр╣Йр╕│р╣Ар╕ер╣Ир╕▓”].
Those who heard him understood that Sonthi’s intentions were pure and good: “Those who listened to the defendant’s statement understood that he did not intend to insult or defame the monarchy. He only wanted to inform the people the facts of what had happened in order to pressure the police to bring a case against Mrs. or Ms. Daranee …” [“р╕Ьр╕╣р╣Йр╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╣Др╕Фр╣Йр╕Яр╕▒р╕Зр╕Вр╣Йр╕нр╕Др╕зр╕▓р╕бр╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╕Юр╕╣р╕Фр╣Ар╕Вр╣Йр╕▓р╣Гр╕Ир╣Др╕Фр╣Йр╕зр╣Ир╕▓р╣Др╕бр╣Ир╕бр╕╡р╣Ар╕Ир╕Хр╕Щр╕▓р╕Ир╕▓р╕Ър╕Ир╣Йр╕зр╕Зр╕лр╕гр╕╖р╕нр╕лр╕бр╕┤р╣Ир╕Щр╕Ыр╕гр╕░р╕бр╕▓р╕Чр╕кр╕Цр╕▓р╕Ър╕▒р╕Щр╕п р╣Ар╕Юр╕╡р╕вр╕Зр╣Бр╕Хр╣Ир╕Хр╣Йр╕нр╕Зр╕Бр╕▓р╕гр╣Гр╕лр╣Йр╕Ыр╕гр╕░р╕Кр╕▓р╕Кр╕Щр╕гр╕▒р╕Ър╕гр╕╣р╣Йр╕Вр╣Йр╕нр╣Ар╕Чр╕Ир╕Ир╕гр╕┤р╕Зр╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╣Ар╕Бр╕┤р╕Фр╕Вр╕╢р╣Йр╕Щр╣Ар╕Юр╕╖р╣Ир╕нр╕Бр╕Фр╕Фр╕▒р╕Щр╣Ар╕Ир╣Йр╕▓р╕Юр╕Щр╕▒р╕Бр╕Зр╕▓р╕Щр╕Хр╕│р╕гр╕зр╕Ир╕Ър╕╡р╕Ър╕Ър╕▒р╕Зр╕Др╕▒р╕Ър╣Гр╕лр╣Йр╕Фр╕│р╣Ар╕Щр╕┤р╕Щр╕Др╕Фр╕╡р╕Бр╕▒р╕Ър╕Щр╕▓р╕Зр╕лр╕гр╕╖р╕нр╕Щр╕▓р╕Зр╕кр╕▓р╕зр╕Фр╕▓р╕гр╕Ур╕╡ …”]. The Court of First Instance was compelled by the defense’s argument, and dismissed the charges, rebuking Sonthi slightly, noting in the final paragraph of the decision that: “Although the defendant’s speech defamed anew and as a member of the media perhaps should have used a different method to proceed with this issue, a reasonable man would not likely understand [the speech to mean] that the defendant intended to slander or attack the monarchy …” [“р╣Бр╕бр╣Йр╕Др╕│р╕Юр╕╣р╕Фр╕Вр╕нр╕Зр╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╕Ир╕░р╕лр╕бр╕┤р╣Ир╕Щр╣Гр╕лр╕бр╣Ир╣Бр╕ер╕░р╣Гр╕Щр╕Рр╕▓р╕Щр╕░р╕кр╕╖р╣Ир╕нр╕бр╕зр╕ер╕Кр╕Щр╕Др╕Щр╕лр╕Щр╕╢р╣Ир╕Зр╕нр╕▓р╕Ир╣Гр╕Кр╣Йр╕зр╕┤р╕Шр╕╡р╕нр╕╖р╣Ир╕Щр╕Фр╕│р╣Ар╕Щр╕┤р╕Щр╕Бр╕▓р╕гр╣Гр╕Щр╣Ар╕гр╕╖р╣Ир╕нр╕Зр╣Ар╕Фр╕╡р╕вр╕зр╕Бр╕▒р╕Щр╕Щр╕╡р╣Йр╣Др╕Фр╣Йр╕Бр╣Зр╕Хр╕▓р╕б р╣Бр╕Хр╣Ир╕зр╕┤р╕Нр╕Нр╕╣р╕Кр╕Щр╕Бр╣Зр╣Др╕бр╣Ир╕нр╕▓р╕Ир╣Ар╕Вр╣Йр╕▓р╣Гр╕Ир╣Др╕Ыр╣Др╕Фр╣Йр╕зр╣Ир╕▓р╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╕бр╕╡р╣Ар╕Ир╕Хр╕Щр╕▓р╣Гр╕кр╣Ир╕гр╣Йр╕▓р╕вр╣Вр╕Ир╕бр╕Хр╕╡р╕кр╕Цр╕▓р╕Ър╕▒р╕Щ…”].
The Appeal Court saw the facts, and meanings, of the case in a different light. The critical passage is on pages 5 and 6 and is worth quoting in full:
“The call by the defendant for ordinary people to condemn the actions of Ms. Daranee and call on police and army officials to bring a case against her are actions in line with the duties of Thai people t protect the nation and the institution of the monarchy following Article 70 of the 2007 Constitution. The defendant did so out of loyalty and the people who heard him understood that he had no intention to insult or defame either of their majesties. It was unnecessary for the defendant to bring out and repeat the utterances that defamed and insulted the king made by Ms. Daranee. Ordinary people may not have known that Ms. Daranee uttered words that insulted and defamed the king, queen, and heir appearance; however, in this case, they learned from the defendant. As well, the people may doubt the truthfulness of the matter raised by the defendant, and it may cause for criticism to cause honour of the their majesties to be tarnished. The defendant was not cautious in his actions and speech, and this has effects on the institution of the monarchy that are likely of benefit to no one”[“р╕Бр╕▓р╕гр╕Чр╕╡р╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╕нр╕нр╕Бр╕бр╕▓р╕Юр╕╣р╕Фр╕Чр╕│р╣Гр╕лр╣Йр╕Ър╕╕р╕Др╕Др╕ер╕Чр╕▒р╣Ир╕зр╣Др╕Ыр╕Ыр╕гр╕░р╕Ур╕▓р╕бр╕Бр╕▓р╕гр╕Бр╕гр╕░р╕Чр╕│р╕Вр╕нр╕Зр╕Щр╕▓р╕Зр╕кр╕▓р╕зр╕Фр╕▓р╕гр╕Ур╕╡ р╣Бр╕ер╕░р╣Ар╕гр╕╡р╕вр╕Бр╕гр╣Йр╕нр╕Зр╣Гр╕лр╣Йр╣Ар╕Ир╣Йр╕▓р╕Юр╕Щр╕▒р╕Бр╕Зр╕▓р╕Щр╕Хр╕│р╕гр╕зр╕Ир╣Бр╕ер╕░р╕Бр╕нр╕Зр╕Чр╕▒р╕Юр╕Фр╕│р╣Ар╕Щр╕┤р╕Щр╕Др╕Фр╕╡р╣Бр╕Бр╣Ир╕Щр╕▓р╕Зр╕кр╕▓р╕зр╕Фр╕▓р╕гр╕Ур╕╡ р╕Бр╕▓р╕гр╕Бр╕гр╕░р╕Чр╕│р╕Вр╕нр╕Зр╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╣Ар╕Ыр╣Зр╕Щр╕Бр╕▓р╕гр╕Бр╕гр╕░р╕Чр╕│р╕лр╕Щр╣Йр╕▓р╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╕Вр╕нр╕Зр╕Др╕Щр╣Др╕Чр╕вр╣Гр╕Щр╕Бр╕▓р╕гр╕Ыр╕Бр╕Ыр╣Йр╕нр╕Зр╕Кр╕▓р╕Хр╕┤р╣Бр╕ер╕░р╕кр╕Цр╕▓р╕Ър╕▒р╕Щр╕Юр╕гр╕░р╕бр╕лр╕▓р╕Бр╕йр╕▒р╕Хр╕гр╕┤р╕вр╣Мр╕Хр╕▓р╕бр╕гр╕▒р╕Рр╕Шр╕гр╕гр╕бр╕Щр╕╣р╕Нр╣Бр╕лр╣Ир╕Зр╕гр╕▓р╕Кр╕нр╕▓р╕Ур╕▓р╕Ир╕▒р╕Бр╕гр╣Др╕Чр╕в р╕Ю.р╕и. р╣Тр╣Хр╣Хр╣Р р╕бр╕▓р╕Хр╕гр╕▓ р╣Чр╣Р р╕Чр╕▒р╣Йр╕Зр╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╕Бр╕гр╕░р╕Чр╕│р╣Др╕Ыр╕Фр╣Йр╕зр╕вр╕Др╕зр╕▓р╕бр╕Ир╕Зр╕гр╕▒р╕Бр╕ар╕▒р╕Др╕Фр╕╡р╕Лр╕╢р╣Йр╕Зр╕Ьр╕╣р╣Йр╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╣Др╕Фр╣Йр╕вр╕┤р╕Щр╣Др╕Фр╣Йр╕Яр╕▒р╕Зр╣Ар╕Вр╣Йр╕▓р╣Гр╕Ир╣Др╕Фр╣Йр╕зр╣Ир╕▓ р╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╣Др╕бр╣Ир╕бр╕╡р╣Ар╕Ир╕Хр╕Щр╕▓р╕Ир╕▓р╕Ър╕Ир╣Йр╕зр╕Зр╕лр╕гр╕╖р╕нр╕лр╕бр╕┤р╣Ир╕Щр╕Юр╕гр╕░р╕Ър╕гр╕бр╣Ар╕Фр╕Кр╕▓р╕Щр╕╕р╕ар╕▓р╕Юр╕Вр╕нр╕Зр╕Чр╕▒р╣Йр╕Зр╕кр╕нр╕Зр╕Юр╕гр╕░р╕нр╕Зр╕Др╣Мр╕Щр╕▒р╣Йр╕Щ р╕Бр╣Зр╣Др╕бр╣Ир╕бр╕╡р╣Ар╕лр╕Хр╕╕р╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕Ыр╣Зр╕Щр╕нр╕вр╣Ир╕▓р╕Зр╣Гр╕Фр╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╕Ир╕░р╕Хр╣Йр╕нр╕Зр╕вр╕Бр╣Ар╕нр╕▓р╕Др╕│р╕Юр╕╣р╕Фр╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╣Ар╕Ыр╣Зр╕Щр╕Бр╕▓р╕гр╕лр╕бр╕┤р╣Ир╕Щр╕Ыр╕гр╕░р╕бр╕▓р╕Ч р╕Фр╕╣р╕лр╕бр╕┤р╣Ир╕Щ р╕Юр╕гр╕░р╕Ър╕▓р╕Чр╕кр╕бр╣Ар╕Фр╣Зр╕Ир╕Юр╕гр╕░р╣Ар╕Ир╣Йр╕▓р╕нр╕вр╕╣р╣Ир╕лр╕▒р╕зр╣Бр╕ер╕░р╕кр╕бр╣Ар╕Фр╣Зр╕Ир╕Юр╕гр╕░р╕Щр╕▓р╕Зр╣Ар╕Ир╣Йр╕▓р╕п р╕Юр╕гр╕░р╕Ър╕гр╕бр╕гр╕▓р╕Кр╕┤р╕Щр╕╡р╕Щр╕▓р╕Ц р╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╕Щр╕▓р╕Зр╕кр╕▓р╕зр╕Фр╕▓р╕гр╕Ур╕╡р╕Юр╕╣р╕Фр╣Др╕зр╣Йр╕бр╕▓р╕Юр╕╣р╕Фр╕Лр╣Йр╕│р╕нр╕╡р╕Б р╕Ър╕╕р╕Др╕Др╕ер╕кр╣Ир╕зр╕Щр╣Гр╕лр╕Нр╣Ир╕нр╕▓р╕Ир╣Др╕бр╣Ир╕Чр╕гр╕▓р╕Ър╕зр╣Ир╕▓р╕Щр╕▓р╕Зр╕кр╕▓р╕зр╕Фр╕▓р╕гр╕Ур╕╡р╕Бр╕ер╣Ир╕▓р╕зр╕Цр╣Йр╕нр╕Др╕│р╕лр╕бр╕┤р╣Ир╕Щр╕Ыр╕гр╕░р╕бр╕▓р╕Ч р╕Фр╕╣р╕лр╕бр╕┤р╣Ир╕Щ р╕Юр╕гр╕░р╕Ър╕▓р╕Чр╕кр╕бр╣Ар╕Фр╣Зр╕Ир╕Юр╕гр╕░р╣Ар╕Ир╣Йр╕▓р╕нр╕вр╕╣р╣Ир╕лр╕▒р╕зр╣Бр╕ер╕░р╕кр╕бр╣Ар╕Фр╣Зр╕Ир╕Юр╕гр╕░р╕Щр╕▓р╕Зр╣Ар╕Ир╣Йр╕▓р╕п р╕Юр╕гр╕░р╕Ър╕гр╕бр╕гр╕▓р╕Кр╕┤р╕Щр╕╡р╕Щр╕▓р╕Ц р╕зр╣Ир╕▓р╕нр╕вр╣Ир╕▓р╕Зр╣Др╕гр╕Бр╣Зр╣Др╕Фр╣Йр╕Чр╕гр╕▓р╕Ър╕Ир╕▓р╕Бр╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╕Юр╕╣р╕Фр╣Гр╕Щр╕Др╕гр╕▓р╕зр╕Щр╕╡р╣Й р╕Чр╕▒р╣Йр╕Зр╕Ыр╕гр╕░р╕Кр╕▓р╕Кр╕Щр╕вр╕▒р╕Зр╕нр╕▓р╕Ир╕Хр╕▒р╣Йр╕Зр╕Вр╣Йр╕нр╕кр╕Зр╕кр╕▒р╕вр╕зр╣Ир╕▓р╣Ар╕гр╕╖р╣Ир╕нр╕Зр╕Фр╕▒р╕Зр╕Бр╕ер╣Ир╕▓р╕зр╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╕Щр╕│р╕бр╕▓р╕Юр╕╣р╕Фр╣Ар╕Ыр╣Зр╕Щр╕Др╕зр╕▓р╕бр╕Ир╕гр╕┤р╕Зр╕лр╕гр╕╖р╕нр╣Др╕бр╣И р╣Бр╕ер╣Йр╕зр╕нр╕▓р╕Ир╕Чр╕│р╣Гр╕лр╣Йр╕бр╕╡р╕Бр╕▓р╕гр╕зр╕┤р╕Юр╕▓р╕Бр╕йр╣Мр╕зр╕┤р╕Ир╕▓р╕гр╕Ур╣Мр╣Др╕Ыр╣Гр╕Щр╕Чр╕▓р╕Зр╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╕Ир╕░р╣Ар╕Бр╕┤р╕Фр╕Др╕зр╕▓р╕бр╣Ар╕кр╕╖р╣Ир╕нр╕бр╣Ар╕кр╕╡р╕вр╕Хр╣Ир╕нр╕Юр╕гр╕░р╣Ар╕Бр╕╡р╕вр╕гр╕Хр╕┤р╕вр╕ир╕Вр╕нр╕Зр╕Чр╕▒р╣Йр╕Зр╕кр╕нр╕Зр╕Юр╕гр╕░р╕нр╕Зр╕Др╣Мр╣Др╕Фр╣Й р╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╣Др╕бр╣Ир╣Др╕Фр╣Йр╕гр╕░р╕бр╕▒р╕Фр╕гр╕░р╕зр╕▒р╕Зр╣Гр╕Щр╕нр╕▒р╕Щр╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╕Ир╕░р╕Бр╕ер╣Ир╕▓р╕зр╕лр╕гр╕╖р╕нр╕Бр╕гр╕░р╕Чр╕│р╕Бр╕▓р╕гр╣Гр╕Фр╣Ж р╣Ар╕Ыр╣Зр╕Щр╕Бр╕▓р╕гр╕Бр╕гр╕░р╕Чр╕Ър╕Хр╣Ир╕нр╕кр╕Цр╕▓р╕Ър╕▒р╕Щр╕Юр╕гр╕░р╕бр╕лр╕▓р╕Бр╕йр╕▒р╕Хр╕гр╕┤р╕вр╣Мр╣Вр╕Фр╕вр╕бр╕┤р╕Ър╕▒р╕Зр╕Др╕зр╕гр╣Др╕бр╣Ир╕зр╣Ир╕▓р╕Ир╕░р╣Ар╕Юр╕╖р╣Ир╕нр╕Ыр╕гр╕░р╣Вр╕вр╕Кр╕Щр╣Мр╕Вр╕нр╕Зр╕Эр╣Ир╕▓р╕вр╣Гр╕Ф”].
The message is clear: there is a lockdown on speech that may be seen to be critical about the monarchy. Even if a loyal subject does so out of concern for anti-monarchical actions going unpunished, the lesson here is that one must call for action without being too specific. But a note of caution, if I may, to the Appeal Court: simply because words are not repeated in the public sphere does not erase the fact of their utterance. And as everyone knows, the more those in power try to make certain words or ideas forbidden, the more they flourish and spread.
Elizabeth Fitzgerald is the pen-name of an observer of Thai history and politics. She can be reached at [email protected].