PPT should have posted this a couple of days ago and we expect that most readers will have seen the report.
As usual in lese majeste cases, on 11 May, the Criminal Court in Bangkok refused bail for human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul, who was abducted by official junta thugs on 29 April.
Prachatai reports that the court rejected a defense lawyer’s submission of “a bail request with the position of a university lecturer friend of Prawet, valued at about 680,000 baht, as guarantee.”
As usual, the judge babbled about “flight risk, severity of the charge, and the possibility that the suspect might interfere with evidence.” On lese majeste, these judges are junta automatons and unconcerned by law.
Prachatai claims that “[a]ccording to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Prawet allegedly posted Facebook comments that Thailand should become a republic.”
We have no way of confirming this, but simply arguing for republicanism does not constitute lese majeste. Given that the constitution states that the form of government is a “democratic regime of government with the king as head of the state” may mean that advocating a republic is unconstitutional. Yet no military junta has ever had a problem with throwing out constitutions as if political confetti.
We do think Prachatai’s report is somewhat misleading. It states that Prawet faces “up to 50 years in prison for royal defamation and sedition.” They say 50 years because the “maximum penalties for Prawet for all counts of lèse majesté and sedition add up to 157 years in prison. Under Thailand’s Criminal Code, however, the maximum total jail term other than life imprisonment is 50 years.”
We think this is diminishing the impact of the lese majeste law. It is not unlike the common media practice of stating that X was sentenced to 10 years for lese majeste when the sentence was actually 20 years, reduced by half for a guilty plea. The sentence was 20 years, not 1o years.
Hence, our reading is that Prawet is subject to 10 sentences of a maximum of 15 years each. He is also subject to more years on the sedition charges.
We see no reason to diminish the seriousness of lese majeste, which sometimes see heavier sentences than for murder.