Man Prosecuted for Defaming King Dies in Apparent Suicide

Nathee's funeral on April 14, 2020. Image: Yaowalak Anuphan / Courtesy

BANGKOK — A man charged with cybercrime for allegedly insulting the monarchy on social media was found dead in what authorities believed to be a suicide, his attorney said Thursday.

Nathee died from drowning in a Bangkok canal with his body found on Monday, according to his lawyer Yaowalak Anuphan. He was 31. In a phone interview, Yaowalak said Nathee previously attempted suicide twice and police forensic results revealed no foul play.

The man was arrested in September 2018 for two Facebook posts deemed by the authorities to be defamatory toward the late King Bhumibol.

He was convicted of violating the Computer Crime Act in December and given a two-year jail term although his charges on royal defamation, or lese majeste, were dropped. At the time of his apparent suicide, Nathee was out on bail while his appeal was ongoing.

Yaowalak said the sentence was handed down despite a diagnosis by a hospital that Nathee suffers from schizophrenia and has received treatment prior to committing the alleged crimes. During the trial, Nathee testified that the two social media posts were made while he was unable to control himself.

“Normally he can make sense. But when schizophrenia sets in he becomes unintelligible,” Yaowalak said, adding that Nathee has been unable to maintain a proper job due to his mental condition.

The lawyer also said Nathee sometimes had a delusion, thinking of himself as the Buddha or an alien from another planet. But his medical conditions failed to convince the court to throw out the cases.

His funeral took place on Tuesday.