[Poonsuk Poonsukcharoen, a lawyer advising Ms. Patnaree, said Ms. Patnaree had sent only a one-word reply, “Ja,” acknowledging receipt of the Facebook message, similar to saying “Yeah,” but had not expressed agreement with it or commented on its content. The message was not made public, so as not to repeat the alleged insult, as is typical in such cases. The sender of the message, Burin Intin, 28, was arrested last month.]
By Richard C. Paddock
Patnaree Chankij, center, the mother of a pro-democracy activist,
at a military court in
The activist’s mother, Patnaree Chankij, 40, who works as a maid, will be tried by a military court under
’s lèse-majesté law, which makes it a crime
to insult the long-reigning King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the queen or the crown
On Saturday, human rights activists called Ms. Patnaree’s arrest a day earlier a “new low” for
, which has increased prosecutions under the
lèse-majesté law since the military took power in 2014. Thailand
Poonsuk Poonsukcharoen, a lawyer advising Ms. Patnaree, said Ms. Patnaree had sent only a one-word reply, “Ja,” acknowledging receipt of the Facebook message, similar to saying “Yeah,” but had not expressed agreement with it or commented on its content. The message was not made public, so as not to repeat the alleged insult, as is typical in such cases. The sender of the message, Burin Intin, 28, was arrested last month.
Col. Olarn Sukkasem, the chief of the police’s Technology Crime Suppression Division, told reporters that the authorities had enough evidence to show that the pair had “carried out things together.” He did not provide specifics, saying the investigation was continuing.
Human Rights Watch said Saturday that the military junta in
had “arbitrarily and aggressively” used the
lèse-majesté laws to prosecute people for any speech deemed critical of the
Since the coup two years ago, the authorities have brought 57 cases under the law, 44 of them involving online commentary, the rights group said.
Among those who have been investigated under the law are a factory worker accused of insulting the king’s dog; a scholar accused of insulting a king who died centuries ago; and Ambassador Glyn T. Davies of the
, who, despite his diplomatic immunity, was
investigated after he criticized long prison sentences handed out under the law.
One man is serving 30 years in prison for posts he distributed on Facebook. United States
“The Thai junta has sunk to a new low by charging an activist’s mother under the ‘insulting the monarchy’ law, which has been systematically abused to silence critics,” said Brad Adams, the
Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “Prosecuting
someone for her vague response to a Facebook message is just the junta’s latest
outrageous twist of the lèse-majesté law.”
At a news conference on Saturday, Colonel Olarn advised the public to exercise caution when communicating online.
“If you share this offending information, you must take responsibility for your act, as well,” he said. Simply clicking “Like” on Facebook could be considered an offense, he said.
He also had a warning for journalists reporting on Ms. Patnaree’s arrest. “Right now, it is under investigation,” he said. “Therefore, I would like you to be careful in publishing information. Publishing false information can be considered an offense.”
Ms. Patnaree was denied bail because the severity of her potential sentence made her a flight risk, Ms. Poonsuk said. Ms. Patnaree’s son, Sirawith Seritiwat, a leading student activist, is out on bail on charges that he took part in a banned protest.
At a protest outside a
police station on Saturday evening, Mr. Sirawith
told his mother’s supporters and the news media that the police had gone after
her to get to him. Bangkok
“She’s never expressed anything politically,” he said. “She’s never argued or debated with anyone.”
He added: “The junta is using my mother as a hostage. And I can tell you that this is not a manly act. And this is not an act that a government should be doing to its people.”
Ms. Poonsuk, who is not officially representing Ms. Patnaree but accompanied her when she turned herself in, said acknowledging a message with a single word was not evidence that she had insulted the king or conspired with Mr. Burin to commit a crime.
“I haven’t seen any legal interpretation like this,” she said. “Just saying ‘yeah’ doesn’t mean that she should be considered an accomplice.”