Computer programmer Surapak Phuchaisaeng has just been acquitted of a charge of lese majeste in Thailand, more than a year after he was arrested and jailed for the offense. Mr. Surapak and his family had always maintained he was innocent of the crime, saying he had obviously been framed. After evidence given in the court case and comments from the judge, as well as today’s judgement, it looks as though they were correct.
So what had Surapak Phuchaisaeng supposedly done that earned him a charge of ‘lese majeste‘ (crimes against the royal family) and a prison stay of more than a year? The charges were he had posted several defamatory comments on a Facebook page about the Thai king. In a country like Thailand, where basic human rights often don’t exist, even a suspicion of this allowed a Thai court to put him away for a year and deny him bail while awaiting trial.
Luckily for Mr. Surapak, the Thai Criminal Court looked properly at the evidence in this case, or lack thereof, before giving their verdict. Unlike in the notorious Ah Kong case last year, where a seemingly innocent and sick old man was not only jailed, but was then found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in jail where he died not long afterward while appealing his sentence.
So what was the supposed ‘evidence’ against Mr. Surapak? Nothing more than a few cached files found on his computer from the Facebook account that had posted the messages. As a specialist from the Royal Naval Academy’s engineering department eventually demonstrated in court, Facebook doesn’t leave those kinds of cached files so, obviously, they had been cut and pasted onto his computer from somewhere else. Effectively framing Mr. Surapak.
The computer had been in the hands of Thai police for at least five days before it was given to the forensics department for evaluation and it had been turned on twice. (Can you believe that would ever happen in a developed country? No, it wouldn’t as the evidence would never be admissible in court. In technically-still Third World Thailand, however, this kind of police work is pretty standard unfortunately and innocent people get put away for a long time because of it).
What was even more ridiculous was that the files that were supposedly ‘evidence’ about Mr. Surapak’s guilt were dated September 7th, 2011. Oddly, Mr. Surapak had been sitting in a Thai jail since September 2nd. The laptop itself had been in the hands of the police and then sent onto the police computer forensic specialist.
After his acquittal today it’s now it’s up to Mr. Surapak as to whether he files a court case against those who framed him. He hasn’t decided yet but made comments to news media at the courthouse leading us to believe he just might.
As for Mr. Surapak’s mother, Taem Phuchasaeng. she spoke to the Bangkok Post after the acquittal verdict came down and said “It is a pity that certain other lese majeste defendants were not in a position to defend themselves. I was quite sorry, in particular, about the death of Ah Kong,”
You and me both, Mrs. Taem. You and me both.