BANGKOK – The Thai military court postponed on Thursday the decision on whether to hear the lèse-majesté case against Thai historian Sulak Sivaraksa, 85, who allegedly questioned the authenticity of a 16th-century historical narrative.
The court agreed with Sivaraksa’s request to hear statements from expert witnesses and historians, while the prosecution also requested more time to define the charges against the 85 year-old, according to the Thai Lawyers Organization for Human Rights.
A list of witnesses in the case has been submitted to the prosecutor, Sivaraksa told EFE a telephone interview on Thursday.
“I have submitted a list of 10 witnesses and the prosecutor will hear from them before deciding whether to press charges,” he said.
The next hearing has been set for Jan. 17, 2018.
Sivaraksa said he was present at the military court in the morning and was welcomed by members of the press as well as representatives from international organizations and foreign embassies.
“I believe there are a lot of people in this country who support freedom of expression, though many of them have been charged as a means to silence them,” Sivaraksa added.
Sivaraksa is facing the charge after he publicly questioned the historical accuracy of a battle between Thai King Naresuan and Burmese Prince Minchit Sra in 1592.
The historian made the comment during a university seminar in early October 2014, five months after the army took power in a coup and during a promotional campaign for a film based on the historic episode by the military junta.
The complaint against him was filed by the army days after the seminar, but it was not until Oct. 9 of this year that the police filed charges in the military court.
Sivaraksa, awarded in 1995 by the Right Livelihood Foundation – considered the alternative Nobel Prize – could face a penalty of between three and 15 years in prison if found guilty.
Lèse-majesté cases have increased since the country came under the rule of the military junta, which puts such crimes under the jurisdiction of the army court where sentences are twice as severe as those issued by civil courts.
Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code punishes insults, defamation or threats against the king, queen, crown prince and regent.
On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch called for the military prosecutor to drop the case against Sivaraksa.