The Thai Appeal Court on May 8 affirmed the decision of the Court of First Instance, sentencing Ekkachai H. to three years and four months in jail and a fine of 66,666 baht for selling VCDs of a documentary on the Thai royal succession by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and copies of Wikileaks cables.
The court found Ekkachai, 38, guilty of violating Article 112, or the lèse majesté law, and Articles 38 and 79 of the Film Act for selling VCDs without a license.
In March 2013, the Court of First Instance sentenced Ekkachai to five years in jail, but since the defendant’s testimony was beneficial to the trial, the jail term was reduced to three years and four months.
Anon Nampha, a lawyer who represents Ekkachai, said his client wished to appeal the case to the Supreme Court, adding that according to Thai law, since the Appeal Court affirmed the ruling of the Court of First Instance, the judges who have overseen the case must approve the defendant’s appeal.
Ekkachai has been jailed since the day the Court of First Instance delivered its verdict. At press time, he has not been granted bail.
A former lottery ticket seller, Ekkachai became more interested in politics after the 2006 military coup d’état and become a follower of Surachai Danwatthananusorn
, leader of the Red Siam faction. During a red-shirt demonstration in 2011, he sold VCDs of an ABC documentary and copies of Wikileaks cables, translated into Thai, which report conversations with three Privy Councillors about the Thai royal family. The copies were sold at 20 baht each.
The prosecutor’s accusation reads “The defendant dared to disseminate images and sounds, messages with images and moving pictures in public by bringing VCDs of the ABC news agency in which appeared a person similar to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and pictures similar to Princess Srirasmi, together with Wikileaks documents which are conversations with 3 Privy Councillors which have statements that defame, insult and threaten the King, the Queen and the Heir Apparent. In addition, Ekkachai runs a business selling VCDs without a license from the legal registrar,” according to iLaw
Ekkachai testified to the court that he himself downloaded the ABC documentary and the cables from the Internet. He did not find the cables constitute lèse majesté, but a credible analysis of Thai politics, Ekkachai testified to the court.
He once said to media that he sold the copies because he wanted Thai people to be able to read foreign views of Thai politics which were different from those in the Thai media.
In the Court of First Instance, the defendant asserted to the judges that he wanted two of the Privy Councillors, including Prem Tinsulanonda, who appeared in the ABC documentary, to testify as defence witnesses. However, the court convinced him to change his mind.