May 21, 2018
(Jatupat ‘Pai Dao Din’ Boonpattararaksa (right) and Boonpattararaksa (left) and Vasin Prommanee, seen here at the time of their arrest, had charges dropped of violating the constitution referendum law.)
On May 22, 2014, the National Council for Peace and Order came to power in Thailand. The four years since have seen a dramatic increase in the number of prosecutions for the crime of lèse majesté, or insulting the crown. On the four year anniversary of the coup, Scholars at Risk (SAR) remains particularly concerned over the sentencing on lèse majesté charges of Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa, a former Khon Kaen University law student and activist.
SAR understands that on December 2, 2016, Mr. Boonpattararaksa posted a BBC Thai article about King Rama X, who ascended the throne that month, on his Facebook account. Authorities arrested him the following day, charging him under Article 112 with lèse majesté, marking the first instance of a student detained in connection with such a charge since the new king’s ascension to the throne. Although the article has reportedly been reposted by more than 2,500 others, we understand that only Mr. Boonpattararaksa was arrested and charged with a crime for doing so.
SAR further understands that Mr. Boonpattararaksa was released on bail the day after his arrest, but was re-arrested and his bail revoked on December 22, 2016, after he posted additional Facebook comments regarding the circumstances of his arrest and prosecution. On February 10, 2017, following weeks of protests and calls for his release, the Khon Kaen Provincial Court formally indicted Mr. Boonpattararaksa on charges of lèse majesté and violation of Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act, which criminalizes the “importation of illegal computer content.” Mr. Boonpattararaksa’s requests for bail were denied ten times by the court, most recently on June 30, 2017. Following more than seven months of detention, Mr. Boonpattararaksa pleaded guilty to the charges against him on August 15, 2017. The court sentenced him to five years in prison, a term which was then reduced to two and a half years. Mr. Boonpattararaksa reportedly took his final exams for law school while in prison, in December 2017; however, he was not permitted to participate in graduation ceremonies.