July 20, 2012 00:00
By PRAVIT ROJANAPHRUK
Ekachai Hongkangwan's lese majeste trial has been deferred to mid-November after judges advised the defendant to change his plea by saying that he had no intention to defame the monarchy but that he merely wanted to share information.
One of the two presiding judges said the defendant did not necessarily have to prove if the information was factual or not. "Because if it is true, it is more defamatory and if it isn’t true, then it’s super defamatory," Judge Aphisit Veeramitchai explained to lawyer Arnon Nampha and the defendant yesterday. "So proving whether the information is factual or not will not be beneficial to you at all… You have to consider this yourself."
The judge went on to say that the prosecutors were not out to prove if the information provided in a Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) documentary or on a WikiLeaks cable was factual or not. "They say the content defames [the monarchy]," he said.
However, in his rebuttal, Arnon said that he and his client still wanted to prove the factuality of the information referred to in the documentary, which led to Ekachai’s arrest. Police arrested Ekachai on March 10 last year after he was caught carrying two sets of WikiLeaks diplomatic cable papers as well as peddling unauthorised CDs of the ABC documentary at Bt20 apiece. He was released on bail nine days later.
Arnon told the judges that he had already filed three court requests to summon Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda and Councillor Sith Savetsila to explain their remarks on the future of the monarchy that were referred to in the WikiLeaks papers. He went on to say that he personally believed that Prem and Sith would be truthful about whether the information attributed to them on WikiLeaks was indeed a fact.
After nearly 30 minutes of consultation and 20 minutes of recess, all sides agreed that the trial should be deferred to November and that the defence would focus on proving that Ekachai had no intention to defame the Crown Prince or the monarchy.
However, the defence lawyer said he reserved the right to have the court summon Prem and Sith in case the prosecution still wished to prove the factuality of the information. The court has also accepted the defence lawyer’s request to seek a Constitution Court ruling as to whether or not the lese majeste law contradicts the Constitution because Arnon’s argument is that it violates freedom of expression.
Meanwhile, 36-year-old Ekachai said he still wants to prove that none of the information provided in the documentary or the WikiLeaks papers was provided with malicious intent.
The former lottery agent went on to say that it was imperative for Prem and Sith to testify, adding "I don’t think I will get away by trying to fight on the basis of my intention".