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Thailand v. Phongsak Sriboonpeng

Closed Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    August 7, 2015
  • Outcome
    Imprisonment
  • Region & Country
    Thailand, Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Judicial Body
    Military Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Defamation / Reputation
  • Tags
    Facebook, lèse-majesté, Political speech

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

Phongsak Sriboonpeng was arrested on January 7, 2015 for posting messages and images that had been considered by the court to defame the monarchy. He was sentenced to 30 years in jail in trial held in camera by the Military Court on August 7, 2015. The length of the sentence has raised both international and national concerns over the use of lèse-majesté law in Thailand.

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.


Facts

Phongsak was alleged of using a Facebook account, Sam Parr, to distribute the messages and images deemed by the court to defame the monarchy. The messages and images were actually copied from other sources. [1]

The details are as followings [2];

Dates Actions
September 4, 2013 Posting an image of King Bhumibol’s statue with a description
September 10, 2013 Posting an image of King Bhumibol with a description
September 17, 2013 Posting an image of King Bhumibol and King Ananda, Bhumibol’s brother, with a description
September 18, 2013 Posting two images of banners
November 25, 2014 Posting a Facebook’s status challenging that he had never been arrested
November 29, 2014 Posting a montage with a description

He was arrested on December 30, 2015 [3] at a bus station in Phitsanulok after being tricked by a man he talked to on Facebook who turned out to be an officer. He was forced to give the passwords of his Facebook and emails. His action led to him being summoned by the military junta to report himself earlier when they seized power on May 22, 2014. Phongsak was charged of defying the junta’s order and was sentenced to 6 months in prison in March 2015 in which it was suspended [4].

Regarding the lèse-majesté offence, the Military Court sentenced him to 60 years in prison under the Article 112 of the Criminal Code and Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act. The sentence was halved by a guilty plea. The trial was held in camera as the court reasoned that the offence affect the public morality [5]. Phongsak cannot appeal his case due to the reason that what he posted had still appeared during the time martial law was declared.

[1] Areerat, Kongpob. “Military Court Sets Record Lèse-majesté Sentence of 30 Years.”Prachatai, August 7, 2015. http://www.prachatai.com/english/node/5375

[2] “Pongsak: Posting lèse-majesté messages on Facebook.” iLaw. http://freedom.ilaw.or.th/en/case/650#detail

[3] “Man Arrested for Defaming Thai King on Facebook.” Prachatai, January 7, 2015. http://www.prachatai.com/english/node/4655

[4] Areerat, Kongpob. “Military Court Sets Record Lèse-majesté Sentence of 30 Years.”Prachatai, Op. Cit.

[5] Ibid.


Decision Overview

Unfortunately, the official case cannot be posted on the website. Even though the length of the sentence is shocking, the reason behind the verdict of this lèse-majesté case is nothing new. This is due to the lèse-majesté is about the monarchy that is considered as revered in the country. The issue in Thailand has raised both international and national concerns regarding its characteristics that bring human rights violations towards the defendant.  Many individuals have been arrested, charged, detained, and imprisoned for exercising their rights of freedom of expression for criticizing the monarchy. Since the lèse-majesté law has no clear scope of which action is considered as offensive, the alleged action is often interpreted according to the court’s points of view which are usually shaped by cultural values and political situations in the country.

Furthermore, since the seizing power of the military junta in Thailand, the lèse-majesté cases have been dramatically increased. The junta ordered all lèse-majesté cases to be tried by the Military Court which is directly under the Ministry of Defense with the deputy head of the junta positions as the minister. This gives the conviction of those who are accused of lèse-majesté almost certain. Moreover, the reason that he cannot appeal the ruling, even though some of the posts were done before the launch of the military junta on May 22, 2014 which was the time martial law was declared, is because all the posts were considered by the court to be seen by public during the time the martial law was used. Therefore, when his case was tried by the military court which worked in a single-tired system during abnormal time, the court did not grant him the right to appeal.


Decision Direction

Quick Info

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

Contracts Expression

Phongsak should not face the trial and is imprisoned because of his personal Facebook’s posts. In this case, he exercised his rights to freedom of expression but it was deemed as offensive by the judges of the Military Court.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

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., Computer Crime Act art. 14

Case Significance

Quick Info

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

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

Official Case Documents

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:


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