At Ratchada Criminal Court in Bangkok this morning, Red Shirt activist and former UDD journalist Aekachai Hongkangwarn was sentenced to 3 years and 4 months imprisonment for violation of Thailand’s lèse majesté law, or Article 112 of the Criminal Code. He is alleged to have sold VCDs containing an Australian documentary about the monarchy.
This verdict is the latest in a series of tough sentences handed down by Bangkok’s courts in cases of alleged defamation against the monarchy. In an earlier case, Red Shirt activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for lèse majesté for two articles that appeared in a magazine of which he was the editor.
UDD leader Tida expressed her sympathies for Aekachai and his family. She also commented on the nature of Article 112:
I know that Aekachai was confident that he had done nothing wrong and had not broken the law, as was Somyot before him. This is the danger of this law. Unlike other laws, where one can be certain what does and what does not count as criminal behavior, with lèse majesté it is difficult to know where the line is.
Unlike many others that have been accused of lèse majesté, Aekachai was fortunate enough to be released on bail during his trial. Since Aekachai will appeal the verdict, his lawyer and his father have re-applied for bail. Until he receives the outcome of his bail application, Aekachai will join other 112 defendants in Bangkok Remand Prison, pending an appeal hearing.