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Bangkok Man Jailed for Defacing Temple: Suttawee Soikham’s Bold Stance Against Lese-Majeste

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Two police officers sprang into action last year on March 28, hastening to arrest a man they spotted defacing the hallowed walls of Bangkok’s Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Armed with black spray paint, the perpetrator brazenly scribbled and then crossed out the infamous number 112, a nod to Thailand’s controversial lese-majeste law. This audacious act, captured on video, sent ripples through the community.

The man behind the spray can, Suttawee “Bang-urn” Soikham, a 26-year-old from Khon Kaen, now faces eight months behind bars for his rebellious venture. The original sentence was a year, but his confession earned him a reduction by a third—no suspension included. Unbowed, Suttawee plans to appeal the Criminal Court’s decision and has secured bail to do so.

Rewind to that fateful day—March 28. Atop the ancient stones of the temple’s exterior, situated within the grandeur of the Grand Palace compound in Bangkok’s Phra Nakhon district, two officers witnessed Suttawee’s act of defiance. The number 112 symbolizes Section 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code, addressing lese-majeste offenses. With an anarchist symbol to boot, this was an unmistakable political statement.

The police promptly nabbed Suttawee and whisked him to the Metropolitan Police Division 6 for interrogation. But his story was far from over. Fast forward to Thursday morning, and Suttawee, alongside his lawyer, braved the court hearing with resolve. Two of his friends, themselves ensnared by similar charges, stood by him in a show of solidarity.

In his verdict, the court found Suttawee guilty of violating several laws, including the Ancient Monuments, Antique Objects and National Museum Act, as well as the Cleanliness Act. Despite his guilty plea and subsequent reduction in sentence, the verdict stood firm: eight months in jail, without suspension.

However, Suttawee’s saga has entangled others. Two journalists, present during the act of vandalism, are also under the legal microscope. Curiously, charges were not brought against them until February 13 of this year. The reporters in question—freelance photographer Nattaphon Phanphongsanon and Nuttaphol Meksobhon of the online news outlet Prachatai—claim they were merely documenting events, with no involvement in the actual graffiti.

Yet, police contend they hold CCTV footage capturing the duo alongside Suttawee, supposedly plotting the spray-painting misadventure. The lack of audio, however, throws a veil of ambiguity over their purported discussions. What were they really talking about? It remains unclear.

Now, as Suttawee prepares for his appeal, his case continues to elicit broader questions around freedom of expression, political dissent, and the stringent lese-majeste laws in Thailand. His friends and supporters, along with the two journalists, represent the many voices striving to be heard in a complex and charged socio-political landscape.

As the narrative unfolds, one can’t help but ponder: will justice prevail, or will Suttawee’s audacious act paint an indelible mark on the country’s history of civil liberties? Only time and a higher court’s judgment will tell.


  1. Liam Q July 4, 2024

    I can’t believe he’d deface a sacred temple like that. Disrespectful and ignorant.

    • Anna M July 4, 2024

      While I don’t condone vandalism, he’s making a statement against unjust laws. Freedom of expression matters.

      • Sean L July 4, 2024

        Sure, but there’s a time and place for everything. Defacing a temple isn’t it.

      • Liam Q July 4, 2024

        Exactly! Protesting is one thing, but showing disrespect to cultural heritage is another.

  2. Sara July 4, 2024

    The lese-majeste law is archaic and oppressive. Thailand needs to move forward, not backwards.

    • Boomer J July 4, 2024

      These laws are essential to protect our traditions and monarchy. It’s our history.

      • PatP3 July 4, 2024

        History should adapt to modern values. Oppression isn’t progress.

    • Sara July 4, 2024

      Exactly, Pat! We can’t let outdated ideals stifle free speech and democracy.

  3. Megan July 4, 2024

    Detaining journalists for simply documenting events is an alarming sign of state overreach.

  4. Marcus W July 4, 2024

    Suttawee is a hero to some, a criminal to others. It’s all about perspective.

    • Erika B July 4, 2024

      Indeed. Heroism or criminality often depends on which side of history you stand.

    • Timmy9 July 4, 2024

      He’s definitely more than just a criminal. It’s about fighting for justice.

  5. Jacob5 July 4, 2024

    I feel for the officers who had to handle this mess. They’re just doing their job.

    • Jenny L July 4, 2024

      True, they must enforce the law, but the law itself is the problem here.

    • Jacob5 July 4, 2024

      Fair point, Jenny. Maybe it’s time for lawmakers to reconsider such strict measures.

  6. Raymond July 4, 2024

    It’s sad to see people treated like criminals for standing up for their beliefs.

  7. Evelyn M. July 4, 2024

    Suttawee’s act of defiance was bold, but will it bring change or more trouble?

  8. Maxy July 4, 2024

    Why didn’t the journalists intervene instead of just documenting? They could have stopped him.

    • Phoebe July 4, 2024

      Journalists’ job is to document, not intervene. We need unbiased reporting.

    • Maxy July 4, 2024

      I get that, but saving a historical site should be more important than a news story.

  9. Chris L July 4, 2024

    Spray painting an ancient wall is wrong, but his argument against oppressive laws is valid.

    • Helen July 4, 2024

      I agree, Chris. His method was flawed, but the message is crucial.

    • Chris L July 4, 2024

      I just hope this sparks a debate and leads to positive change.

  10. UrbanMaverick July 4, 2024

    The real criminals are the lawmakers who think penalizing free speech is acceptable.

    • K2 July 4, 2024

      Exactly! Protect the people, not the power figures.

    • UrbanMaverick July 4, 2024

      Every regime that stifles dissent will eventually crumble. History has shown us that.

  11. Lenny D July 4, 2024

    Thailand’s legal system needs a complete overhaul. This case is a clear example.

  12. John Smith July 4, 2024

    Suttawee should have found another way to protest. This isn’t the way to make a point.

  13. Danny July 4, 2024

    Defacing a temple does nothing but create more division and anger.

    • Priya July 4, 2024

      Sometimes drastic actions are necessary to draw attention to serious issues.

    • Danny July 4, 2024

      I still believe there were less destructive ways to achieve the same goal.

  14. Mary July 4, 2024

    Will Thailand ever have true freedom of expression? Cases like this make me doubt it.

    • PeterH July 4, 2024

      It’s a long road ahead, but we can’t lose hope. Change often comes slowly.

  15. Emma July 4, 2024

    What a shame it has come to this. Countries should respect human rights universally.

    • Nick R July 4, 2024

      Agreed, Emma. Human rights should never be compromised.

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