Mentally ill man indicted on lèse majesté charge in Ubon Ratchathani
A mentally ill former military conscript was indicted on a lèse majesté charge on Wednesday for allegedly destroying pictures of HM the King, in Trakan Phuet Phon district of the north-eastern province of Ubon Ratchathani on November 6th last year, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).
The 32-year-old, named by TLHR only as “Taem” for confidentiality reasons, has denied the charge. He was released on 90,000 baht bail by the provincial court. The prosecutor did not object to the granting of bail. Taem has been ordered to appear before the court for a hearing on September 19th.
In addition to the lèse majesté charge, TLHR said that the accused was indicted for causing damage to state property, in accordance with Section 358 of the Penal Code.
During police questioning, Taem claimed that he did not intend to destroy the King’s pictures, but he did so because he heard a voice from “high above” ordering him to do it, not knowing that they were the King’s pictures.
He also claimed that he started hearing voices after he was hospitalised for being hit hard in the head by a higher-ranked army officer.
The police were also told that Taem has been receiving treatment for mental illness. The police, initially, did not charge him with lèse majesté, but this move was rejected by superiors at the Region 3 Provincial Police Bureau, who argued that destroying the King’s pictures was highly inappropriate and amounts to offending the monarchy.
TLHR said it has appealed to the public prosecutor not to file a lèse majesté charge against Taem, claiming that he only intended to destroy the pictures, but not to offend or insult the monarchy.
It referred to a ruling of the Region 4 Appeals Court, which acquitted six defendants charged with lèse majesté for damaging a decorative arch to commemorate the King, stating that the defendants had no intention to offend the monarchy, but merely wanted to destroy the property.
The prosecutor did, however, proceed with charging him with lèse majesté, as recommended by the police.
According to TLHR, at least 10 people with histories of mental illness have been indicted on lèse majesté charges since the May 2014 coup and six of them have received prison sentences.