Trio confess to lese majeste charges in Thailand

Thai fortune teller Suriyan Sucharitpholwong (C), 54, also known as Mor Yong, is escorted by commando police during his arrival at a military court in Bangkok on October 21, 2015.

THREE well-known figures arrested over lese majeste charges have confessed to violating Article 112 of the Penal Code, the national police chief said yesterday.

National police chief General Chakthip Chaijinda said celebrity fortune-teller Suriyan Sujaritpolwong, 53, who is better known as "Mor Yong", his aide Jirawong Wattanathewasilp, 39, and Pol Major Prakrom Warunprapa, 44, an inspector from the Technology Crime Suppression Division, have confessed to the charge.

According to Chakthip, he has issued an order to dismiss Prakrom from duty due to his involvement with the case.

The three were escorted to the military court yesterday, arriving in three separate vehicles, handcuffed, and accompanied by a large group of heavily armed police commandos.

The three suspects were taken back to 11th Military Circle after the military court yesterday approved a request for their further detention.

A large number of media personnel were also present at the military court yesterday, with some TV channels broadcasting the event live.

Pol Lt-General Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul, who heads the team investigating the case, told reporters yesterday that the suspects had admitted to violating the Penal Code so for more than two months.

All three were all accused of insulting the monarchy, which violates the lese majeste law. Prakrom was also accused of possessing unregistered firearms and ammunition.

They were arrested after the military court issued warrants for their arrest - on October 18 for Suriyan, October 20 for Prakrom and October 21 for Jirawong.

"There were references to the top institution so we brought these three in order to jail them," said Srivara, who is assistant national police chief. He added that there might be others involved in this case.

"Police are gathering evidence for military prosecutors to take this case to court. If the evidence links this case to other people, the authorities will take legal action against all of them," he told reporters.

Srivara said yesterday that more arrests would be made soon for people involved with this group of offenders who had cited the monarchy for personal gains.

'Probe into links with eight'

He said the investigators would also try to determine as to whether these suspects were connected to the eight police officers who have been transferred to inactive posts earlier for suspected involvement. The eight officers have been moved to the Central Investigation Bureau.

Srivara yesterday declined to elaborate on how many suspects the police were targeting in this lese majeste case.

He said, however, that police have strong evidence against the trio who were taken to the military court yesterday.

"The offence carries a penalty of more than five years in prison so we have to be careful. We need strong evidence before any arrest warrants are issued," he said.

A previous high-profile case of lese majeste involved disgraced former Central Investigation Bureau commander Pol Lt-General Pongpat Chayapan and his men, who were arrested last year.

Srivara yesterday also distributed a document comprising the names of people arrested for citing the monarchy for personal gains.

The document said the National Council for Peace and Order had found that a group of people had wrongly cited their connection with the high institution in order to demand benefits from other people.

Such an act was damaging to the monarchy and could threaten national security.

The NCPO then assigned a representative to file a complaint with the police to take legal action against those allegedly involved.