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Thailand v. Thanet Nonthakot

Closed Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    June 25, 2015
  • Outcome
    Imprisonment
  • Case Number
    N/A
  • Region & Country
    Thailand, Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Defamation / Reputation
  • Tags
    Imprisonment, Cyber Security

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

Thanet Nonthakot was arrested and accused of lèse majesté for sending an email to Emilio Esteban, a British national who ran the blog “Stop Lèse Majesté.”  The email contained a link to lèse majesté content. On June 25, 2015, the Criminal Court in Bangkok sentenced Nonthakot to three years and four months in jail.

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

Thanet Nonthakot suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, which is a mental disorder whereby a patient may have auditory hallucinations and delusions. Nonthakot sent an email to the blog, “Stop Lèse Majesté,” run by Emilio Esteban, containing a link to a website that was determined to have defamed the monarchy.[1] The blog has since been denied access by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), and its last post is dated October 2, 2014. While active, the blog told stories about the Thai monarchy in a satirical manner and referred to each member of the Royal Family (both past and present) by false names, alongside their real pictures.

In 2010, the police got an order to read Esteban’s email and found the email believed to be from Nonthakot. In addition to the link, in the email, Nonthakot allegedly wrote, “Can you post this web on your site for Thais to read? They need to read it. Thanks load.”[2]

The police did not follow up the case against Nonthakot until July 2, 2014, when they arrested him. After being held at a military detention camp, Nonthakot admitted to having sent the email.[3] During the trial, he argued that he was suffering the effects of his mental disorder when he sent the email, which was supported by a certificate from his doctor. However, the judges stated that he was able to stand the trial.[4]

 

[1] Tanet, iLaw Freedom, http://freedom.ilaw.or.th/en/case/614#progress_of_case(last visited 07/27/2015).

[2] Mentally Ill Man Jailed 3 Years For Sending Lèse Majesté Link, Prachatai English, (June 25, 2015) http://www.prachatai.com/english/node/5196.

[3] Mentally Ill Man Jailed 3 Years For Sending Lèse Majesté Link, Prachatai English, (June 25, 2015) http://www.prachatai.com/english/node/5196.

[4] Mentally Ill Man Jailed 40 Months For Lese Majeste, Bangkok Post, (June 25, 2015), http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/crime/604068/mentally-ill-man-jailed-40-months-for-lese-majeste.


Decision Overview

The Criminal Court found that the content of the link Thanet sent to Esteban defamed the King, which is punishable under the Thai Criminal Code. Even though Thanet’s conduct was only the act of sending the link, the Court reasoned he must have intended to have the defaming message appear on Esteban’s website. The Court held that Thanet must have already known that the King holds a position of revered worship that shall not be violated.[1]

The Court took into account the examination of Thanet’s mental condition by his doctor, but found that his intellectual status fell within the normal range. The Court determined that the symptoms of his mental disorder were not serious. Although the Court acknowledged that Thanet might act aggressively if there were anything to arouse him, it found that Thanet remained in the normal range most of the time.[2]

The inquiry officials and officers from the Department of Special Corrections said that Thanet had been able to communicate normally with them and had been able to tell the details of his conduct clearly. They found that, even though he had finished his education after the third grade, he was able to read and write English from self-study. Further, because Thanet had experience going abroad and was able to sell products on the Internet, the Court did not believe that he could not exercise control over his actions that led to the case at hand.[3]

The Court held that Thanet could not use his mental disorder to make a case for his innocence and found him guilty of committing the offenses under the Articles 112 and 116 of the Criminal Code and Articles 14(3) and 14(5) of the Computer Crime Act. The original sentence was five years but was reduced to three years and four months due to the usefulness of Thanet’s testimonies.[4]

Thanet decided to drop the appeal and is hoping for a royal pardon.[5]

 

[1] Thanet, iLaw, http://freedom.ilaw.or.th/th/case/614#progress_of_case (last visited 08/31/2015) [in Thai].

[2] Thanet, iLaw, http://freedom.ilaw.or.th/th/case/614#progress_of_case (last visited 08/31/2015) [in Thai].

[3] Thanet, iLaw, http://freedom.ilaw.or.th/th/case/614#progress_of_case (last visited 08/31/2015) [in Thai].

[4] Thanet, iLaw, http://freedom.ilaw.or.th/th/case/614#progress_of_case (last visited 08/31/2015) [in Thai].

[5] “San Chanton Phiphaksa “Thanet” Kadi 112 Chamkuk 3 Pi 4 Duen” [The Court of First Instance ruled over the Article 112 case of Thanet, 3 years and 4 months imprisonment] Prachatai, (June 25, 2015), http://www.prachatai.com/journal/2015/06/59965 [in Thai].


Decision Direction

Quick Info

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

Contracts Expression

This is a harsh ruling because the sentence of three years and four months imprisonment is disproportionate to the crime of having sent a link with content the state has deemed inappropriate. Additionally, it should be noted that the case was prosecuted only after the NCPO seized power, which shows that the case has a political aspect to it. Also, it cannot be proven whether Nonthakot could or could not control himself due to his mental disorder.

This case showcases well the complications inherent to lèse majesté prosecutions in Thailand. The offense is under the national security section, and, taken with the cultural aspects of Thai society, the chance that this type of case will be acquitted is low.

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., Crim. Code art. 116
  • 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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