BANGKOK — A man arrested for scribbling anti-monarchy remarks inside a Bangkok shopping mall's bathrooms has been sent to face trial in military court, where he could receive a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
Soldiers arrested Opas Charnsuksai, 67, at Seacon Square shopping mall in Bangkok on 15 October after receiving reports from cleaning staff that he was seen writing anti-monarchy graffiti inside toilet stalls in several of the mall's bathrooms.
This morning, the military escorted Opas to the Crime Suppression Division headquarters for police to press lese majeste (insult of monarchy) charges against him, said Col. Burin Thongprapai.
Criticising the Royal Family is punishable by up to 15 years in prison under Section 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code.
Opas told reporters this morning that he wrote the remarks because was angry about the coup and wanted to express his discontent. He said he wanted to leave anonymous messages because he was unable to air his opinions openly due to lese majeste laws.
He added that he now regrets his actions and "incorrect" thoughts about the monarchy.
"I have never joined any political demonstration with any political group, but I form my own opinions based on what I read in the media," Opas said. "I want to caution the public … to carefully consider which media information is right and wrong. Don't jump to conclusions."
According to Col. Burin, Opas said he regularly listened to a commnity radio station that made him "have an incorrect understanding about the monarchy." Col. Burin appeared to be referring to one of Thailand’s unlicensed community radio stations, many of which are operated by Redshirt activists and regularly feature radical comments about the monarchy.
Col. Burin said the suspect will be tried by a military court, in accordance with the junta's order to give martial courts jurisdiction over all crimes that affect "national security." Thailand's junta, which seized power in 22 May, has vowed to crack down on lese majeste offenders and other perceived threats to the monarchy.
"I don't want the people to have incorrect understanding about the Higher Institution," said Col. Burin. "Listening to information can lead to misunderstanding. I want the people who still think and act in this way to stop their behaviour before they are arrested."
The Seacon Square shopping mall has also fined Opas 2,000 baht for property damages.
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