Ja New's mother faces lese majeste charge

Ja New's mother faces lese majeste charge

Patnaree Charnkij, Sirawith 'Ja New' Seritiwat's mother, reports to technology crime police on Friday. She denied the lese majeste and technology crime charges filed against her. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
Patnaree Charnkij, Sirawith 'Ja New' Seritiwat's mother, reports to technology crime police on Friday. She denied the lese majeste and technology crime charges filed against her. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

The mother of Sirawith "Ja New" Seritiwat, a key anti-coup protester, has been charged with collaborating to commit lese majeste and computer crime. She was denied bail.

Patnaree Charnkij, whose son is a core leader of the New Democracy group, denied the charges when she reported to police at 4pm on Friday. She declined to talk to reporters.

Ms Patnaree, 40, was accused by investigators of collaborating to insult the monarchy and breaching the computer crime law on national security, Thai media reported.

Pol Lt Col Sanpetch Noothong, a senior technology crime investigator, came to the court to submit evidence for the warrant at noon. The court later approved it.

She was denied bail during the investgation and was brought to be detained at the Thung Song Hong police station.

Ms Patnaree allegedly collaborated with Burin Intin, a group member, in committing the crime. Mr Burin was arrested on April 27 on the same charges.

Thai media also reported last Friday Mr Burin said he had known Mr Sirawith since he joined the group on Sept 19 last year. He had later known Ms Patnaree and occasionally chatted with her on his phone. 

In one of these chats, Mr Burin said he had unintendedly criticised the palace.

Teeraphan Pankhiri, her lawyer, told Thai media Mr Burin chatted with "Nuengnuch Charnkij" on Facebook, whom police believed was Ms Patnaree's account.

"The offending chat was one-sided. Only Mr Burin talked but Ms Patnaree did not say anything. However, police said even though she did not respond, the fact that she failed to stop or warn him meant she was aiding and abetting," he told Matichon Online.    

Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer, said Ms Patnaree told him she did not know Mr Burin very well. “She insisted she had never had his phone number, chatted with him on Line or Facebook or privately contacted him."

Mr Anon said he had prepared 500,000 baht from a fund mobilised from the group’s supporters as a surety for bail during the interrogation. If the request is denied, he would seek bail with the Military Court on May 8.  

Since the May 22, 2014 coup, Mr Sirawith, a Thammasat University student, has staged several protests against the putsch, the army-run Rajabhakti Park scandal and arrests of anti-government protesters.

On Sunday, the We Love the Nation group, comprising Ramkhamhaeng University students and alumni, filed a complaint with the Crime Suppression Division to check who was behind Mr Sirawith's activities. They felt his action was unwarranted given that the junta had followed a clear roadmap to return the power to the people.

Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or lese majeste law, criminalises criticisms against the monarchy. Anyone who "defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent" will be punished with up to 15 years in prison.

From May 22, 2014 to April 30, 2016, a total of 64 people were charged with lese majeste from expression, according to statistics compiled by the Freedom of Expression Documentation Center of the Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). The figure does not include those facing the same charge for extortion for personal gains.  

Up until now, the charges applied mostly to publicly committed offences. But since last week, police have produced evidence obtained from private conversations, especially from Facebook's chat function or Messenger, even though suspects have not given them passwords.

It remains unclear how they got hold of such private information but investigators said this week they obtained it through legitimate means and confirmed it could be used in court.

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