Facebook lands Watana in contempt

This Facebook Live post from inside the Criminal Court cost Pheu Thai Party stalwart Watana Muangsook a conviction for contempt and a suspended jail sentence.

The Criminal Court on Monday sentenced Watana Muangsook, a key Pheu Thai Party figure and former commerce minister, to one month in prison, suspended for one year, and fined him 500 baht for contempt of court after broadcasting via Facebook Live at the court.

The court said Mr Watana had violated Sections 30 and 31 of the Civil Procedure Code and Section 15 of the Criminal Procedure Code for using Facebook Live on the premises Monday as he awaited the court’s ruling on another case.

The court also ordered him to delete the clip from his Facebook page.

Mr Watana said he had no knowledge that video recording was forbidden in the court compound, saying court authorities had already told him he could use his mobile phone.

The sentence was handed down while he was waiting for the court’s decision on whether to detain him on charges of inciting public chaos, breaching Section 116 of the Criminal Code.

That charge is in connection with a case involving the removal of a memorial plaque commemorating the 1932 Siamese Revolution.

The plaque, which had been fitted into the road near the King Rama V equestrian statue at the Royal Plaza in Dusit district, was earlier replaced by a new plaque, causing outrage among pro-democracy activists.

Regarding the memorial plaque case, the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) on Monday submitted a request to detain the politician from Aug 21-Sept 1. Mr Watana was awaiting the ruling on that matter when he started filming in the court.

Earlier at the police station, Mr Watana acknowledged the charge of importing false information into a computer system in violation of the Computer Crime Act after he posted content relating to the plaque’s replacement on his Facebook page.

He was temporarily released on 200,000-baht bail for both charges.

He said it was not common for TCSD investigators to summon someone again after the person has already acknowledged the charges again him.

Mr Watana also said the detention request is intended to hinder him from giving moral support to former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the Supreme Court this Friday.

The court will hand down its ruling in a long-running case regarding her role in her former government’s loss-ridden rice-pledging scheme.

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