Global Freedom of Expression

Thailand v. Thitinan

On Appeal Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Non-verbal Expression
  • Date of Decision
    May 12, 2015
  • Outcome
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Thailand, Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Judicial Body
    Appellate Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Defamation / Reputation

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

Thitinan (last name withheld) was accused of lèse-majesté for stepping on an image of King Bhumibol on July 13, 2012 at the Constitutional Court. She was taken to Thung Song Hong Police on the same date. On May 21, 2014 the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court sentenced her under the Article 112 of the Criminal Code to two years in prison with three years suspension because of her mental illness. However, the Appeal Court changed the first court’s decision by reducing the sentence to one year without suspension on May 12, 2015. She was later released on bail on the same date.

Global FoE could not identify official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. Global FoE notes that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding legal matters will be updated as an official source becomes available.


65-year-old Thitinan was at the Constitutional Court on July 13, 2012 where approximately 400 protesters gathered when the judges were scheduled to read a ruling on the government’s attempt to amend Article 68 of the 2007 Constitution. Thitinan kicked the image of King Bhumibol while one protester was holding it. It was reported that when the image fell to the ground, she stepped on it twice. The protesters were enraged by her action and subsequently filed lèse-majesté complaints against her [1].

The cause of Thitinan’s action was  believed to be her mental illness. She has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder since 2003 according to her medical records. Nevertheless, Thitinan pled guilty to the charges against her, admitting that she had committed the offense but claiming that she could not control herself and was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of her action. After being prosecuted, she was detained at Galya Rajanagarindra Institute for 45 days before being taken to the Central Women’s Correctional Institution. The court granted bail to her after a 300,000 baht surety was submitted [2].

After giving her medical treatment, Thitinan’s doctor concluded that Thitinan was suffering from mania during the time of the action. Even though she knew what she was doing, she could not control herself as the bipolar disorder made her impulsive. However, as she was able to make her way to the Constitutional Court and still was able to answer questions about herself after the action, it was challenging to determine whether she really could control herself during the event  [3].

Thitinan’s son said that his mother’s condition greatly deteriorated while she was in detention prior to being granted bail.  She was in a wheelchair, inattentive, and no one was able to understand what she was saying. Thitinan was taken to Rajavithi Hospital after she was released on bail. The doctor there concluded that she had overdosed on pills given to her while she was detained [4].

The Criminal Court in Bangkok sentenced her to one year in jail with three years suspension on May 21, 2014 [5]. After the Appeal Court’s ruling, Thitinan’s son submitted a request for a temporary release of his mother. This was granted on the same date the ruling was given. Thitinan was released on bail for a second time with the same amount of surety: 300,000 baht [6].

Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code stipulates, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”

[1] “Thitinan: Offence against the King’s Portrait.” iLaw

[2] “Witness Hearing Has Started for Lese-majeste Case of 60s Years Old Woman  Regarding the Incident in front of the Constitutional Court in 2012.” [in Thai] Prachatai, March 11, 2014.

[3] “One Year Sentence with Suspension for Thitinan for Stepping on the King’s Portrait  due to Mental Illness” [in Thai] Prachatai, May 21, 2015.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Kummetha, Thaweeporn. “64 Year-old Woman Found Guilty of Lese-majeste for Stepping on Image of the King.” Prachatai. May 21, 2014.

[6] “Court Jailed Mentally Ill Old Woman for Stepping on Image of the King.” Prachatai, May 12, 2015.

Decision Overview

The Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court sentenced Thitinan to two-years imprisonment under Article 112 appurtenant to Article 65 (2th paragrpah). The sentence was cut by one year because of the guilty plea. The imprisonment was suspended for three years and she was required to report on the progress of her medical treatment every six months for two years [1].

After Thitinan appealed the first’s court decision, the Appeal Court sentenced Thitinan to one year in prison without suspension. She is still required to report on the progress of her medical treatment every six months for two years. The court reasoned that stepping on an image of the King is a serious offense, and the defendant was still able to partially control herself during the action. The Court added that the sentence was necessary to prevent others from committing the same action. The court also prohibited Thitinan from traveling abroad [2].

[1] “One Year Sentence with Suspension for Thitinan for Stepping on the King’s Portrait  due to Mental Illness” [in Thai] Prachatai, May 21, 2015.

[2] “Bail Granted to Thitinan, 65 years old Woman with Bipolar after the Appeal Court Granted One Year Imprisonment” [in Thai] Prachatai, May 12, 2015.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

In this case, the charge should be dropped completely because there is reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt. It cannot be proven whether Thitinan really could control herself while stepping on the image.

Due to old age and poor mental health, Thitinan should not be given a jail term without suspension, especially in light of the fact that her health condition was worsened when she was detained earlier. The court’s decision is too harsh for a 65-year-old with mental illness.

Thailand’s lèse-majesté law is very problematic. The law has no clear scope of interpretation and use. The law states, “whoever defames, insults, or threatens …”, but it is unclear what actions can be considered defamatory, insulting, or threatening. Moreover, because any individual can file a complaint on this matter, the interpretation of the law depends on the opinion of the individual who files the complaint. Moreover, due to the perceived role of the royal institution in Thailand, interests of the state can cause discrimination against the accused individuals or defendants. A conviction on lèse-majesté is usually certain.


Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Thai., Crim. Code art. 112
  • Thai., Article 65 of the Criminal Code

    The second paragraph is cited in the ruling as she was sentenced under the Article 112 of the Criminal Code appurtenant to Article 65 (2).

    The whole article read “Whenever any person commits an offence at the time of not being able to appreciate the nature, or illegality of his act or not being able to control himself on account of defective mind, mental disease or mental infirmity, such person shall not be punished for such offence.

    But, if the offender is still partially able to appreciate the nature or illegality of his act, or is still partially able to control himself, such person shall be punished for such offence, but the Court may inflict less punishment to any extent than that provided by the law for such offence.”

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

The Appeal Court still handed Thitinan a jail term after the first court’s ruling. Even though the first court handed her the suspension and the Appeal Court did not allow it, she is still found guilty of her action.

Official Case Documents

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