The Sad Tale of Uncle SMS

If there's one law that would turn me into a republican pretty quickly it's that of Lese Majesty which is the crime of violating a sovereign ruler.   It has it's origins in Ancient Rome and is based on their law of  "injured majesty".  It still exists on the law books of many countries including some in Europe but fortunately it is rarely used in the democratic nations.  The last documented case in the UK was in 1715 for example.

Unfortunately Mr. Amphon Tangnoppakul (also know as Akong) did not live in a European democracy he lived in Thailand and on the 23rd November 2011, this 64 year old man was sentenced to 20 years in prison.  The reason -  for sending 'insulting text messages' regarding the Thai royal family to the personal secretary of the previous president.  That's five years imprisonment for each and every SMS message that was allegedly sent!

Akong was dubbed Uncle SMS by his supporters and the various Human rights organisations who lobbied for his release.

If this sounds implausible and ridiculous, it's made even worse by Amphon's insistence that - 
  • He never sent the texts
  • He doesn't Own the mobile phone used.
  • He doesn't know how to send an SMS
It seems likely he was completely innocent of the accused crimes but it's not likely that would have much bearing on his trial in any case.  This is of course Thailand - a place described by the social commentator Sulma Suvaraks as 
.... now in Thailand there is no respect for either the constitution or human rights
However the sad end to the tale is that yesterday on the 8th May, 2012 Uncle SMS's ordeal came to an end - he died in custody.

He had spent the last 20 months of his life in police custody on these ridiculous charges, the man who was suffering from oral cancer was denied bail 8 times on the grounds of the seriousness of the charges and that this old, sick man was liable to abscond. RIP Akong - he lost his life and his family lost a husband and grandfather to a stupid law intended to protect the honor of the Thai Monarchy.  To be honest it doesn't look very noble or honorable from where I'm sitting.

You can read more about this story here -

Asian Human Rights Commission - Amphon Tangnoppakul

Interesting Essay on the Lese Majesty Law