On October 4 2013, at 17.05pm, Surachai Danwattananusorn was granted a royal pardon and released from jail after having been imprisoned in Bangkok Remand Prison for almost three years since February 22, 2011.
The 71-year-old former Red Siam faction leader was convicted on five lese majeste charges and sentenced to 12 years and six months for giving speeches judged to have insulted the monarchy at five different rallies across the country.
Defaming the monarchy is a violation of Section 112 under the Penal Code of Thailand which punishable by up to 15 years in prison per offence.
Surachai filed a request for a royal pardon in March, 2012, together with eight other lese majeste prisoners. His application reached the Office of the His Majesty’s Principal Secretary in August last year while other lese majeste convicts who have since applied for a royal pardon have already been released such as, Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul and Wanchai Sea-Tun.
Pranee Danwattananusorn, Surachai’s wife said her husband wants to return to his home province of Nakhon Si Thammarat after being released in order to take care of his home which had been deserted during his imprisonment.
At present, there are three other 112 prisoners that still remain imprisoned in Bangkok including; Ekachai Hongkangwan, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk who are still fighting for their cases and Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul, who is waiting for her royal pardon that she had requested for earlier this year.
The most recent 112 convictions are Ms. Paphachanan Ingchan who was sentenced to 3 years in prison by the Supreme Court in Nakorn Ratchasima Province on 29th August 2013 and Ms. Noppawan Tang-udomsuk who was sentenced to five-year in prison for allegedly posting a defamatory comment against the monarchy on the Prachatai.com webboard.
Ms. Noppawan, who went by the nickname “Bento,” was arrested in January 2009 but was later acquitted by the Criminal Court in January 2011 which ruled that the evidence, namely the IP Address, was not sufficient to pinpoint the defendant′s wrongdoing, and subsequently acquitted her of the charges. However, the prosecutors had appealed the ruling soon afterwards
On October 2nd 2013, the Appeals Court has overturned the verdict of the lower court, citing that the evidence from the police was credible because officials from the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology have insisted to the court that technical data pointed to the defendant. The judges noted that the recorded data of internet connection at the time the comments were posted matched with the defendant′s account and usage time.
Following the verdict, the court sentenced the defendant to 5 years in prison for “defaming, discrediting the monarchy” but Ms. Noppawan contested the decision and has been released on a bail of 1,000,000 baht surety. She is now fighting for her case.
Previously, Ms. Chiranuch Premchaipon, the webmaster of Prachatai, had been found guilty of lese majeste and sentenced to two years after failing to erase the offensive comments about the monarchy that was posted on its webboard “quickly enough”.