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Judgment of the Supreme Court of Justice No. 6378/2556

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Judgment
Emblem of the Thai Government
No. 6378/2556


In His Majesty's Name

The Supreme Court of Justice


The 8th Day of May, Buddhist Era 2556 (2013)


Criminal Case



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\right. }   Chon Buri Provincial Prosecutor Prosecutor
 
Natchakrit Chuengrungrit Defendant


Re:   Offence against the king, queen, heir apparent or regent



The Prosecutor filed a final appeal against the judgment of the Regional Court of Appeal II dated 28 July 2009. The Supreme Court of Justice admitted the final appeal on 19 July 2010.

The Prosecutor preferred a charge stating: During daytime of 5 April 2005, the Defendant, as owner and host of a community radio program called Together We Think and Solve, distributed by means of broadcasting through the said program the following contents: "My dear listeners, this is Together We Think and Solve. The telephone number is 0 3844 3888. A little while ago, someone privately called and asked me why I failed in the election. I think we don't have to talk about the reason for that. Though I failed, I'm still proud of myself because of my duties and the good feedback I've received. I have positive feelings every day. So, we should have to be proud of ourselves if we still adhere to our ideals and human dignity. My listeners, I will tell you why I applied for candidacy. Ah, someone is calling. Well, hello there. Ah, hello. Though I failed to win the election, but I've always been honest and that's enough. Ah, hello. I have to thank the people of Soet Noi for their support. My listeners, let's talk about being a good person. Soet Noi people said they will show up if they are backed by someone honest. They said I was like being in the middle of a pool because of several failures. Despite that, I'm proud of myself. To be honest, I'm proud of myself. If I want to be an MP like you, I could be it before you. I was once given a chance. Somebody invited me to be an MP like you. But I declined it. I declined it, my dear listeners, because it didn't deserve my human dignity. If I could act freely and think freely for the sake of the people, I would accept that chance and wouldn't care whatever I will lose. But if being an MP is like being in the time of the Fourth Reign, I won't be an MP doubtlessly. Such age was no more, though some similar characters still remain in this country. Some still remain. That's what made me proud of myself. Every time I think about it, I'm proud of myself." These contents were distributed to the general public in Bang Bueng District, Chon Buri Province. Their meaning constituted an act of slander, defamation or insult against the Fourth Reign, a past monarch, for the reason that it compared such reign as the time of slavery – lacking freedom and good governance. These contents decrease the public's faith in the Fourth Reign, since they were distributed in such a manner likely to cause the Fourth Reign to be disgraced, discredited, insulted and detested, and with the intention to cause the people to discontinue their worship and respect. The described event came to pass in Ban Bueng Subdistrict, Bang Bueng District, Chon Buri Province. The Defendant is also charged with the Black Criminal Case No. 714/2550 before another court of first instance. The Prosecutor therefore applied to the court for sentencing the Defendant in keeping with the Criminal Code, section 112, and for calculating the imprisonment term in this case in succession to that in the mentioned case.

The Defendant pleaded guilty.

After due trial, the court of first instance delivered the following judgment: The Defendant is guilty of the offence under the Criminal Code, section 112, and is sentenced to imprisonment for four years. As his confession was of use to the trial and gave rise to extenuating circumstances, his penalty is then reduced by half pursuant to the Criminal Code, section 78, being imprisonment for two years in total, and this imprisonment shall be suspended for two years. Also, the Defendant is subject to probation conditions by which he is required to report to a probation officer every four months for one year and to perform community services, as found appropriate by the probation officer and the Defendant himself, for twelve hours in compliance with the Criminal Code, section 56. The application for penalty calculation is denied.

The Prosecutor, by appeal, applied for cancellation of suspension.

The Regional Court of Appeal II reversed the judgment of the court of first instance by dismissing the charge.

The Prosecutor then filed the final appeal.

Having reviewed the file and held deliberations, the Supreme Court of Justice entertains the following opinion: The Criminal Code, section 112, prescribes: "Any person who defames, insults or expresses ill will towards the king, queen, heir apparent or regent…". Nothing in this provision indicates that the king only refers to the one reigning at the time of the offence and the victim can only be the reigning king. Upon due consideration, the Court finds that the said provision is in Title 1 of Offences against National Security. This indicates that the offence, even personally affecting the king, queen or heir apparent, can have an impact on national security. Thailand has been ruled by monarchs from the outset, that is, from the time it was under the absolutist regime of government, to the time it adopts the democratic regime. Although sovereignty now lies with the people and the government is run by the people for the people, the king, as Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Thai Armed Forces, remains in the position of revered worship. His signature is required for the laws approved by the Legislative Branch and for the appointment of important position holders, including the Members of the Council of Ministers, the President of the National Assembly and the President of the Supreme Court of Justice. Furthermore, succession to the Throne is governed by the Palace Law, allowing the continuation of royal blood line, especially in the House of Chakri which has begun from the founding monarch, Buddha Yod Fa Chula Lok, to the present king. For these reasons, the citizens are connected with the revered monarchy and the Constitution of the Kingdom states that the king is above all and no one may expose him to any sort of court. As the law does not mention that a person will be guilty under the Criminal Code, section 112, only when he commits an offence against the reigning king, a person can be found guilty under such provision even he commits an offence against a deceased king. Defaming a past king can also affect the reigning king, for the reason that King Mongkut was the father of King Chulalongkorn who was the grandfather of the incumbent King Bhumibol Adulyadej. If the king is interpreted to be only referring to the reigning one, an act of disrespectful or defamatory nature against the current monarch is then allowed. Moreover, as earlier said, the Thai people have always been connected with the monarchy. The monarchs are still held in reverence, even after their deaths. Every year, several ceremonies are organised in their remembrance, including the wreath laying ceremonies conducted by the Government. In consequence, defaming or insulting a deceased monarch can still affect the public sentiment, entail public displeasure and sway national security. This point of appeal asserted by the Prosecutor is reasonable. However, as the Prosecutor, by final appeal, requested the cancellation of suspension of the Defendant's sentence, the Court finds that the Defendant, having pleaded guilty, appeared to have repented his act. The extenuating circumstances exist, by which the Defendant can be allowed to reform himself in order to become a better citizen. This point of appeal of the Prosecutor is unreasonable.

The Court hereby holds that the judgment of the Regional Court of Appeal II shall be reversed and the judgment of the court of first instance shall be executed.



Sirichai Watthanayothin.


Thawip Tansawat.


Photsawat Kanoknak.