National Security, Defamation / Reputation
Mwenda v. Attorney General
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Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, an activist and editor of the magazine The Voice of Taksin, was charged under Thailand’s lese majeste laws for two articles that appeared in the magazine. The articles were considered insulting the Thai monarchy, and Pruksakasemsuk was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The Voice of Taksin, a Thai magazine, published two articles in 2010 that allegedly criticized the royal family. One article portrayed a political family that opposes democracy and plots to kill millions of people. The other was a fictional story of a ghost that plans massacres. Neither article specifically mentions the king or any members of the royal family, but the characters were interpreted to be King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his family.
Jakrapob Penkair, the author, fled the country to Cambodia. Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, the editor of the magazine, was arrested in 2011 and charged with criminal defamation under Thailand’s lese majeste laws for the articles. Pruksakasemsuk was held responsible for the content published. He was denied bail. The media could not report the content of the articles at issue since they were deemed to violate the lese majeste law.
Pruksakasemsuk was convicted and sentenced to five years on each of the two charges, and the Court cancelled the suspension of a previous one-year sentence — for a total of 11 years in prison. Pruksakasemsuk was convicted on January 23, 2013 by the Bangkok Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court. On September 19, 2014 the Appeal Court affirmed the ruling of the first court. Somyot is awaiting for the Supreme Court’s decision.
Chanathip Mueanphawong (ชนาธิป เหมือนพะวงศ์), J. presided over the proceedings. The prosecution charged Pruksakasemsuk for violating Article 112 of the criminal code, the law corresponding with lese majeste. Article 112 states that 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. There is no explicit definition about what constitutes an “insult” or “threat.”
Though Pruksakasemsuk had not written the articles in question, the court said he was still responsible for their content as the editor. The two articles never actually mentioned the king, but the court still found “the writing conveyed connection to historical events” that one could infer applied to specific royal individuals.
The Court found Pruksakasemsuk guilty of insulting the monarchy and thus breaching Article 112. Although Thailand has publishing laws to protect editors from being held accountable for articles written by others, the Court determined that insulting the monarchy was “a threat to national security and trumped all other laws.”
The Court said the king deserves “special protection” as he is the “center of the nation,” and ruled that insulting the king “is considered an act that wounds the feelings of Thais who respect and worship the king and the monarchy.”
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
The case represents the Thai government using lèse majesté laws to control activists and critics of the monarchy, thus suppressing free speech.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
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