By Prach Panchakunathorn

Sondhi Limthongkul, PAD leader (Photo: AP)

Sondhi Limthongkul, PAD leader (Photo: AP)

The Nation reports:

The People’s Alliance for Democracy on Friday organised a public talk to mark the Chinese New Year and its four leaders vowed to resume the struggle against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul, speaking via a telephone call from China, said the military should stage a coup in cooperation with the people in order to wrestle a complete control of the country from Thaksin.

“If the PAD is to make a move once again, this time will not just confine to street protesting but a complete seizure of power,” he said, pledging a make-or-break struggle.

Sondhi said he feared for the future of the monarchy if the Thaksin camp had its way.

The PAD’s Manager Online also has a report in Thai. The headline reads: “Sondhi urges the military to cooperate with the people-sector to stage a coup and protect the monarchy” (“สนธิ จี้ทหารจับมือภาค ปชช.ปฏิวัติ ยึดอำนาจรัฐ ปกป้องสถาบัน”).

PP: Sondhi’s speech is, of course, insane. But I wonder whether it is also illegal. Here I quote some Articles from Thailand’s Penal Code, Chapter 2 “Offences Against the Internal Security of the Kingdom”.

Article 113 Whoever commits an act of violence or threatens to commit an act of violence in order to:
(1) Overthrow or change the Constitution;
(2) Overthrow the legislative power, the executive power or the judicial power of the Constitution, or nullify such power; or
(3) Separate the Kingdom or seize the power of administration in any part of the Kingdom,
is said to commit insurrection, and shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.

PP: Sondhi’s call for a coup itself should not constitute a “threat to commit an act of violence in order to … overthrow the legislative power, the executive power or the judicial power”, because he is not threatening to “commit an act of violence” himself, but only asking the military to do it.

However, he said: “The military should not stay still. Come out and stage a coup. And supporters of the PAD all over the country will come out with the military to seize Thailand back from those bastards.” (“ทหารอย่านั่งเฉย รีบออกมาปฏิวัติเสีย แล้วพันธมิตรฯ ทั่วประเทศจะออกมาร่วมกับทหาร ยึดประเทศไทยคืนมาจากไอ้พวกชั่วๆ”) Now this makes his speech closer to a violation of Article 113, since it says the PAD, i.e. his own group, will also come with the military to seize power.

Article 115 Whoever instigates any member of the armed forces or the police forces to desert or not to perform his duties, or to commit mutiny, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding five years. If such offence is committed for the purpose of undermining the discipline and efficiency of the said armed forces or police forces, the offender shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding ten years.

PP: Does Sondhi’s speech constitute instigating members of the armed forces “not to perform their duties”? It depends whether we think that a member of the armed forces has a duty to obey the law and not to overthrow the government. To me, they do have this duty. But would the court think so?

Article 116 Whoever makes an appearance to the public by words, writings or any other means which is not an act within the purpose of the Constitution or for expressing an honest opinion or criticism in order:
(1) To bring about a change in the Laws of the Country or the Government by the use of force or violence;
(2) To raise unrest and disaffection amongst the people in a manner likely to cause disturbance in the country; or
(3) To cause the people to transgress the laws of the Country,
shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding seven years.

PP: Does Sondhi’s speech constitute “making an appearance to the public by words … in order to bring about a change in … the Government by the use of force”? To me it seems like it does. But does it qualify as an “honest opinion or criticism”? Again this is so vague that it could be interpreted to be almost anything. But surely an “honest opinion or criticism” cannot mean simply an opinion faithful to one’s beliefs, since any speech that instigates a violent overthrow of the government can be expressed honestly in that sense. I’ll leave this to the reader to judge whether Sondhi’s speech constitutes any of these offences.

One interesting fact about this is that, Articles 113, 115 and 116 are all in the same Chapter as the notorious Article 112 (the lese majeste law). They are classified as “Offences Against the Security of the Kingdom”. This means that anyone (who holds a Thai citizenship) can file a charge against Sondhi if he/she thinks Sondhi violates one of these Articles. Are we going to see any?

Prach Panchakunathorn is now a graduate student in Philosophy at Cambridge University. He received his B.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) from Oxford University, UK.