Somyos lese majeste ruling deferred until Jan 23

The Criminal Court will pass judgement on lese majeste prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk on Jan 23, the judges hearing the case announced on Wednesday.

Over a hundred people were present at the court when the hearing reconvened on Wednesday morning. They included the defendant's wife and son, representatives from several European embassies, including Denmark and Germany, and the European Commission. International and local NGOs such as Freedom House, Human Rights Watch and Union for Civil Liberty were also there.

The court read out a lengthy explanation of the Constitution Court's ruling that the Penal Code's Section 112, known as the lese majeste law, is not contrary to the constitution.

The court's ruling was presented in evidence by Mr Somyos and also by another lese majeste defendant in another case, Ekachai Hongkangwan.

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk (Photo by Surapol Promsaka na Sakolnakorn)

Attendants moved to calm the public gallery, which erupted noisily after the lengthy explanation, particularly when it was anounced the judgement on Mr Somyos would not be delivered right away but delayed until Jan 23, 2013.

The Constitution Court, the Criminal Court explained, had ruled that "Section 112 of the Penal Code is a provision supplementing Section 8 of the Constitution to give it a real practical effect. Therefore, there is no ground to allege that it is contrary to Section 8 of the Constitution."

There were still issues for the Constitution Court to examine,  whether Section 112 of the Penal is contrary to Section 3 paragraph two, Section 29 and Section 45 paragraphs one and two of the constitution or not.

The Constitution Court sees that the principle of Section 112 of the Penal Code is in line with providing protection to the King, an institution and head of the state of Thailand. The provision of penalties for offenders is needed to maintain public order and good morals of the people in accordance with the rule of law, which is the morality and ethics of the law. Therefore, Section 112 of the Penal Code is not contrary to the rule of law under Section 3 paragraph two of the Constitution.

Furthermore, Section 112 of the Penal Code is written in Book II Specific Offences, Title I Offences Relating to the Security of the Kingdom, Chapter 1 Offences against the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent and the Regent, a measure of the state in providing protection to the King from defamation, insults or threats.

Commission of offences under Section 112 of the Penal Code shall affect the security of the state as the King is an institution the constitution recognises and protects, and is part of the democratic regime of government with the King as the head of state.

Therefore, Section 112 of the Penal Code is a legal provision relating to the security of the kingdom having the same meaning of being the law enacted for protecting the security of the state provided in Section 45 paragraph two, a condition in restricting people's liberty in expressing opinion under Section 45 paragraph one.

The penalty stipulated in Section 112 of the Penal Code is what is necessary to allow Section 8 of the Constitution, which recognizes the status of the king, to have its absolute enforcement in practical terms.

It is also a categorisation of offences appropriate and proportionate to the status of a person specified by the Penal Code

It is also a provision generally applied, without aiming to be enforced on any specific circumstance or person, and without affecting the essential substances of people’s liberty in expressing opinion under Section 45 paragraph one, in any means, as every person shall enjoy the liberty to express opinion within the boundary of it not being an offence under Section 112 of the Penal Code.

Section 112 of the Penal Code is, therefore, not contrary to Section 29 and Section 45 paragraphs one and two of the Constitution.

Mr Somyos said he had no problem with the prolonged reading of the Constitution Court ruling, or with the change of the presiding judges in his case.

But he said that the lese majeste law remained a problem affecting the whole justice system, and undermined  the integrity of the revered institution of the monarchy.

"What I feel sorry about is that the parliament and the Yingluck administration are somewhat cowardly. The people-initiated amendment under the banner of the Committee to Campaign for the Amendment of Section 112 is an important move and the way this effort was belittled and stopped is a loss to our society.

"It's of immeasurable regret that social justice and protection of the institution of the monarchy [through the proposed amendment] cannot be achieved," said Mr Somyos.

"It's a pity that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra does not dare to take the lead in this case. Her cowardice and indecisiveness make her no different to other dictators," he said.

Mr Somyos said he still looked forward to being acquitted and believes he is not guilty and the law he was charged under is unjust.

Mr Somyos was arrested on April 30, 2011, five days after he launched a petition campaign to collect 10,000 signatures required for a parliamentary review of lese majeste law.

He is charged with violating Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code for allowing, as editor, the publication of two articles written by another person in the magazine Voice of Taksin (Voice of the Oppressed), which were deemed to be critical of the monarchy.

His applications for provisional release on have been turned down repeatedly by the court.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has ruled that Mr Somyos' detention, for 20 months already, was in contravention of international human rights law and standards. 

Piyabut Sangkanonkul, a member of the Nitirat Group who was present at the court room, said this was yet another controversial ruling by the court, because Section 112 should not be linked with Chapter 8 of the constitution.

The Nitirat Group, said Mr Piyabut, was preparing to scrutinise all the verdicts relating to lese majeste cases and explain to the public why they were invalid.

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About the author

Writer: Achara Ashayagachat
Position: Senior Reporter