Activist Acquitted of Sedition for Anti-Junta Messages

Prominent anti-coup activist Sombat Boonngarm-anong on 12 June, 2014.
Prominent anti-coup activist Sombat Boonngarm-anong on 12 June, 2014.

BANGKOK — A pro-democracy activist was acquitted Thursday of sedition and cybercrime charges for criticizing the ruling junta back in 2014.

In its verdict handed down today, the court said Sombat Boon-ngamanon, 52, did not violate sedition offences because he was merely expressing his political opinions and no one has come out to protest as a result of his action. The charge was filed against him by the junta regime shortly after it seized power in May 2014.

“I’m glad since I’ve been fighting for this for six years,” Sombat said by phone after the verdict. “This verdict is not only for me. It will set the precedent for future coups that people can rightfully express their opinions and criticize coupmakers.”

Sombat was arrested at night in June 2014 and arraigned to a military court after the intelligence agency was able to track him from his IP address, which he used for posting anti-government messages on social media.

He was later granted bail on a 600,000 baht bond a month later on condition that he refrain from engaging in political activities.

Sombat said he will hand out free meals at McDonald’s San Kamphaeng branch in Chiang Mai province this Sunday to celebrate the ruling.

But he still faces indictment in another sedition case for his protest in May 2014, in which he defied the junta’s ban on assembly and called for an election two days after Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha staged a coup against an elected government.

Known for his humorous political gimmicks, he attempted to register “Troll Party” to run for the 2019 general elections, but it was rejected by the Election Commission on the grounds that its name was inappropriate.

Sombat, who hailed from a charity background, has been campaigning for a more democratic regime since the coup in 2006 that deposed PM Thaksin Shinawatra.