Insults, defamation and threats: The Uncle SMS caseBy Bangkok Pundit May 11, 2012 10:00AM UTC
Andrew Marshall (AKA Zenjournalist) has posted contents of 4 SMS messages in the Uncle SMS case. The contents were surprising. Based on what BP had heard and all reports, previously there was only mention that the SMS messages were offensive or insulting. See below:
The court said Amphon had sent offensive text messages in May 2010 to a personal secretary of then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Amphon denied the charges, saying he was unfamiliar with the text message function on mobile phones and did not know the recipient of the message.
A THAI court yesterday sentenced a man to 20 years in prison for sending text messages deemed insulting to the monarch.
The Criminal Court sentenced 61-year-old Ampon Tangnoppakul to 20 years in jail on Wednesday after finding him guilty of lese majeste and computer crimes.
He was charged with sending four short messages with offensive content in May last year to the personal secretary of then prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
The Criminal Court on Wednesday sentenced Ampon Tangnopakul, 61, to serve 20 years in jail after finding him guilty of four counts of texting offensive remarks against Her Majesty the Queen in May 2010.
BP: These were the four articles referred to in BP’s post at the time of the jailing.* Lese majeste covers insults, defamation, and threats. Hence, BP understood at the time that the judgment was only in relation to insulting or defamatory comments. However, two of the 4 SMS messages go beyond insulting and defamatory comments. The 3rd SMS states “…[We] must stamp on their faces with our heels” (….ต้องเอาส้นตีนเหยียบหน้ามัน). The 4th SMS states “Please tell …. and all of their children, you’ll all die” (ช่วยบอก…และลูกหลานมันทุกๆ คนต้องตาย).
Lese majeste covers insults, defamatory statements, and threats. However, as pointed out in this post, there is clear difference between a threat (which is a criminal offence in most, if not all, jurisdictions) and insults and defamatory statements (which in many countries is not a criminal offence or where it is then the punishment is usually a light sentence, suspended sentence, or a fine – most lese majeste cases are about insults and defamatory statements). Now, BP views the contents of the SMS messages as constituting a threat. The court judgment in the Uncle SMS case also deems it to be a threat.
Not all instances of threats are prosecuted although threats against a Head of State would certainly be investigated, but if the threat was not deemed as credible or there was not an actual threat, the person may not be prosecuted – see here and here for US examples. This is an issue of prosecutorial discretion and if** the person is prosecuted the sentence would be light. Some cases in the US have resulted in a jail sentence of less than 1 year for threatening to kill Obama although other cases have resulted in 2-3 years in jail. Hence, a 20-year sentence is very severe, but then the question is of proportionality of the sentence and not whether the person should have been jailed in the first place.
The messages “indicated intent to harm and defamation against Her Majesty that would trigger hatred,” the court said. “All the messages were untrue.”