The Southern Bangkok Criminal Court's acquittal on Friday of a lese majeste defendant should be a great relief, not just to the defendant but to all fair-minded individuals who love our monarch but who disagree with the abuse of this law for political or whatever reasons.
The court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to convict Yuthapoom Madnok of Si Sa Ket on two counts of lese majeste. He had been accused of making defamatory comments about members of the royal family while watching TV news, and of writing insulting words directed at the monarchy on a CD. The charges were brought against him by public prosecutors.
Both alleged offences were committed in 2010 in the privacy of the home the defendant shared with his elder brother Thanawat Madnok, who laid the charges, and there were no other witnesses.
The two were reported to have been feuding at the time over a car-wash business that they jointly owned.
Yuthapoom was arrested in 2011, about a year later, after his brother finally lodged a complaint with the police. He was denied bail twice and kept in detention until his acquittal, and was due to be released later on Friday.
Like most lese majeste cases, this trial attracted the attention of both international and local human rights organisations. I personally find it worthy of a case study, especially regarding the extent to which interpretation of the lese majeste law can be taken and the seeming abuse of the law.
First of all, there is the fact that the feud between the brothers prompted one of them to file a complaint with the police. Then there were the so-called facts about the alleged offence - the alleged defamatory remarks and alleged writing of an insult on a CD – done within the confines of the family home and not in public, as has been the case in other high-profile lese majeste cases.
I really question the judgement of the police in accepting the case and passing it to the prosecutors in the full knowledge that it was motivated by a family business conflict. The prosecutors, too, should have done a better job in screening the case before forwarding it to the court.
Had the case been dropped by the police, or by the public prosecutors, Yuthapoom would not have been incarcerated for a year. It was clearly an abuse of the law. Who will carry the cost of any compensation he eventually receives? We, the taxpayers, of course.
The monarchy is widely respected and should be protected, but abusing the lese majeste law is by no means a way to demonstrate loyalty to, or to protect, the highest institution.