Thailand forces man into psychiatric hospital against his will after he wore T-shirt saying he has ‘lost all faith in the institution of monarchy’
- Tiwakorn Vithiton posted a picture on Facebook of himself wearing the T-shirt
- He was put in a psychiatric hospital in Khon Kaen on an unclear legal basis
- People who defame the monarchy can be punished with up to 15 years in prison
A man who wore a T-shirt questioning the Thai monarchy has been put in a psychiatric hospital against his will.
Tiwakorn Vithiton, 45, was admitted to the Rajanagarinda Psychiatric Hospital in Khon Kaen after posing with the controversial T-shirt in a Facebook photo. The message on the shirt read: ‘I have lost all faith in the institution of monarchy.’
Publicly criticising the monarchy in Thailand is both socially taboo and legally risky because of a ‘lese majeste’ law which means offenders can face three to 15 years in prison.
The legal basis for putting Tiwakorn in hospital is not clear and has drawn concern from human rights activists.
Tiwakorn Vithiton, 45, was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Thailand after posing with a T-shirt saying: ‘I have lost all faith in the institution of monarchy’
Yingcheep Atchanont was one of a small group of human rights defenders who visited Tiwakorn on Monday at the hospital.
‘He seemed to be OK but wasn’t sure in what legal capacity he is being held,’ the activists who works with iLaw, an independent justice watchdog group, said.
He said Tiwakorn’s family told him hospital staff and police had to force him when he resisted going to the hospital, following an earlier visit to their home by doctors who questioned him.
Yingcheep said there has been a surge of public interest this year in expressing opinions on Thai politics and society, and people had found workarounds to speak out without violating repressive laws.
He said there are 13 lese majeste cases out of 89 that iLaw has monitored where the accused have ended up confined in mental hospitals.
‘Tiwakorn’s case is the first in which the authorities had someone committed someone straight to the psychiatric facility without having gone through filing charges and legal detention first,’ Yingcheep said.
He described Tiwakorn, who is not a public figure and not known to be the member of any organised group, as ‘clever’ in how he expressed his opinion.
Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida during their wedding ceremony in Bangkok in May last year. According to tradition, the King has a semi-divine status and must be seated higher than those around him
Khon Kaen police chief Major General Puttipong Musikul says Tiwakorn has not been charged with any crime and was taken to hospital for medical reasons.
Hospital director Dr Nathakorn Jampathong said Tiwakorn has been undergoing psychiatric evaluation since being admitted on July 9.
‘All I can tell you is that he is fine and the evaluation is still going on,’ the medic said.
The lese majeste law has long been abused for political purposes to silence dissidents, but in recent years the number of cases has declined as the government has instead used laws covering computer crimes and sedition.
In June, King Maha Vajiralongkorn told the government it should not prosecute lese majeste cases.
In addition, authorities have put pressure on people with other methods such as visiting their families’ homes and talking to their teachers.