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Anti-coup activist acquitted of sedition, cybercrime charges

Jack Burton

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PHOTO: Arnaud Dubus

A pro-democracy activist was acquitted today of sedition and cybercrime charges for criticising the ruling junta back in 2014. He was accused of violating Section 116 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crime Act by posting messages against the 2014 coup that deposed PM Yingluck Shinawatra. The messages were posted between May 30 and June 4, 2015, when martial law was in effect and criticising the government was illegal.

In its verdict handed down today, the court said 52 year old Sombat Boon-ngamanon didn’t violate sedition laws as he was merely expressing his political opinions and no one protested as a result of his actions. The charge was filed against him by the junta regime – the National Council for Peace and Order – shortly after it seized power in May 2014.

“I’m glad since I’ve been fighting for this for 6 years. This verdict is not only for me. It will set the precedent for future coups that people can rightfully express their opinions and criticise coup-makers.”

Sombat was arrested on the night of June 2014 and arraigned in a military court an intelligence agency was able to track him by his IP address, which he used to post anti-junta messages on social media. He was later granted bail on a 600,000 baht bond on the condition that he refrain from political activities.

Sombat says he’ll hand out free meals at McDonald’s San Kamphaeng branch in Chiang Mai on Sunday to celebrate the ruling.

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 2 days after Prayut Chan-ocha staged a coup against an elected government.

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

Sombat has been campaigning for more democratic rule since the 2006 coup that deposed PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

SOURCES: Khaosod English | Nation Thailand

 

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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