Court jails 'Banpodj Network'
10 receive 'harsh' terms for lese majeste
The Bangkok Military Court on Tuesday sentenced eight people from an "anti-monarchy network" to up to 10 years in prison for lese majeste over audio recordings deemed to defame the royal family.
Eight of the so-called "Banpodj Network", a name derived from their Facebook page and audio clips uploaded on YouTube, were initially handed 10-year terms for sharing the recordings online. One of the eight was 66-year-old podcast creator Husdin Ouiraiprayvan.
Natee Pasomsap and Saifon Intasorn, who were considered "supporters", received six years.
The sentences of the 10 people were later halved because they confessed to the offences, the court said.
The group, which included four women, were charged between January and March under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, known as the lese majeste law under which anyone convicted of insulting the King, Queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count.
The accused were also prosecuted under the Computer Crimes Act, a charge which carries up to five years in jail and has increasingly been used in conjunction with lese majeste charges as the authorities step up scanning of critical content online.
Husdin confessed to creating hundreds of voice clips, one of which insulted the monarchy, the court was told.
Police originally arrested 14 suspects.
Two were being prosecuted separately as theirs is a Department of Special Investigation (DSI) case, while the other two pleaded not guilty.
The hearing on Tuesday covered the remaining 10, including Husdin, who had all confessed.
All 10 had previously asked the court for lighter sentences, either citing their age or claiming they were not directly involved in the crime.
The court rejected most of the pleas, saying the offence involved was too serious to ignore.
Motorcycle taxi driver Natee, who was sometimes used by Husdin to deliver items, and Husdin's girlfriend Saifon were deemed as lesser "supporters" and received the lighter sentence of three years.
Family members of the accused broke down in tears after the court's sentences were handed down.
The husband of one of the women convicted said his wife's political beliefs had always made him feel uneasy but still felt the sentence she received was too harsh.
Most of the relatives said they had hoped the accused would only receive suspended jail terms or three years — the lightest sentence.
One of their lawyers, Sasinan Thamnithinan, from the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group, said the sentence seemed harsh as lawyers and the families concerned expected the sentence for those who shared the clips would be lighter than for Husdin, who created them.
Yingcheep Atchanont, from the Internet Dialogue on Law Reform, said the sentences sent a strong warning to Thai netizens that sharing dubious clips publicly or privately can land them in jail.