Lèse majesté in Thailand

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Order of the Prime Minister Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat in 1961 to summarily execute two persons on the charge of lèse majesté

Lèse majesté[a] in Thailand is criminalized by Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. It is illegal to defame, insult, or threaten the king, queen, heir-apparent, heir-presumptive, or regent. Modern Thai lèse-majesté law has been on the statute books since 1908. Thailand is the only constitutional monarchy to have strengthen its lèse majesté law since World War II, with penalties of three to fifteen years' imprisonment per count and has been described as the "world's harshest lèse majesté law"[1] and "possibly the strictest criminal-defamation law anywhere".[2] According to social scientist Michael Connors, its enforcement "has been in the interest of the palace."[3]:134

Acts of "insult" have criminalized since 1957, and there is substantial room for interpretation, which causes controversy. Broad interpretation of the law reflects the inviolable status of the King, resembling feudal or absolute monarchs. The Supreme Court decided that the law also applies to any previous monarchs. Criticism of any privy council member has also raised the question of whether lèse majesté applies by association. Even "attempting" to commit lèse majesté, making sarcastic comments about the King's pet, and failure to rebuke an offense have been prosecuted as lèse majesté.

A BBC article explains that the filer party of lèse-majesté complaints can be anyone, and the police formally investigated all of them.[4] Details of the charges are rarely made public. A Section 112 defendant meets with official obstructions throughout the case. There are months-long pretrial detentions, and the charged detainees are routinely denied bail. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined that the pretrial detention of an alleged lèse-majesté offender violated international human rights law.[5] The courts seem not to recognise the principle of granting the benefit of the doubt to defendants. Judges have said that accusers did not have to prove the factuality of the alleged lèse-majesté material, but only to claim it is defaming anyhow. Pleading guilty then asking for a royal pardon is seen as the quickest route to freedom for anyone accused.

Coup makers, since a 1976 coup, have regularly cited a surge of alleged lèse-majesté as a prerequisite for overthrowing elected governments. The 2006 coup, during which lèse-majesté was cited as one of the major reasons for the coup, was marked with a surge of lèse-majesté cases,[6] especially after the 2014 Thai coup d'état.[6] Around 2006 and 2007, there were notable changes in the trend in which the people targeted include more average citizens with those people being given longer jail sentences. Human rights groups condemned its use as a political weapon and means to restrict freedom. The 2014 junta government granted authority to army courts to prosecute lèse-majesté, which is usually resulted in Secret trials and harsh sentences. The longest recorded sentence was 60 years imprisonment, reduced in half to 30 years because the defendant pleaded guilty.[7][8] Since 2018, there have been no known new cases, but the authorities have invoked other laws, such as the Computer Crimes Act and sedition laws, to deal with perceived damages and insults to the monarchy.[9][10]

History[edit]

Origin and early developments[edit]

In the feudal era, the monarchs were protect as many kinds of "violation", which also includes royal officials, royal symbols, and wrongdoings in the palace.[11]:23–24 It could be consider that crimes against royal symbols greatly affected social structure of the Sakdina era.[11]:24–5

The oldest version of lèse majesté law was in the modern defamation law in general in 1900, set out to protect the monarch's reputation.[12]:3 It made acts against the King also acts against the state.[12]:3

In Siamese modern criminal code of 1908 separated the King and the state. It penealized persons who displayed malice or were defamatory to the King, the Queen Consort, the Heir-apparent, or Regent to imprisonment of not exceeding 7 years or fine of not more than 5,000 baht, or both.[12]:3 Other sections provided protection from displays of malice or defamation of "the princes or princesses from whichever reign,"[12]:3 or "create disloyalty or to insult the king," and "cause the people to transgress the royal laws."[12]:3–4

As the print media was becoming widespread, the criminal code was strengthened in 1928 to penalized crimes of "advocates or teaches any political or economic doctrine or system, intended or calculated to bring into hatred or contempt the Sovereign."[12]:4

Lèse majesté law did not change significantly after 1932 Siamese Revolution, because Khana Ratsadon compromised and also added inviolable status of the King in the Constitution which lasted to the present day.[11]:28 However, the law included an exclusion clause for "an expression of good faith or amount to a critical and unbiased comment on governmental or administrative acts..."[12]:4 During that time, discussion about the monarchy was still free, including the notion of "Should Thailand be a constitutional monarchy?" in 1949, and a legal scholar lecture which said the King should not give opinion on economic, political and social problems with no countersign in 1956.[11]:30

1957 changes: "insult"[edit]

"... it might not be true, and even if it were true, [it] should not be publicized as there is no legislation that allows it. And regarding the institution of the monarchy, it should be revered by the people, in an inviolable status, always above any criticism."[11]:38–9 — A Court decision in 1986, ruling that gossip could be lèse majesté even if it were true.

On 1 January 1957, the criminal code of 1956 went into force,[12]:18 and lèse majesté since then forbid "insult", in addition to existing crimes of threats or defamation. The change broadly expanded the applicability of the law.[12]:6 Lèse majesté was also changed from an offense against the monarchy to an offense against national security,[3]:133 removing the right to express opinions which might insulting to the monarchy if said within the spirit of the constitution.[12]:6

Thai Cold War dictator Sarit Thanarat, claimed national security, used lèse majesté charges to suppress political opponents, leading to some executions. He also handed over lèse majesté cases to courts-martial.[13]

Court decisions shortly after the change still brought context into consideration. In December 1957, a case against a politician was dismissed due to being a political campaign season.[11]:32–3

The penalty for lèse-majesté was toughened from a maximum of seven years imprisonment to three to fifteen years per count used today by the order of the military junta of 1976. Except World War II Empire of Japan, Thailand is the only constitutional monarchy which had done so in the 20th century.[14]:115–116

Around 1977–1986 when royal power based grew among the urban middle class, the "kinship" and "bond" relationship was created between the people and the King and as well as modern "inviolable" status.[11]:37–8 Since then, court decisions and legal scholars' comments interpreted lese majeste law as the King could not be criticized in any way.[11]:38–9

Examples of "insulting" cases include a politician who served four year imprisonment for suggesting that life would have been easier had he been born in the palace in 1988,[3]:134 and a man in 1976 who was arrested on charges of lèse-majesté for using a royal village scout scarf to wipe a table.[3]:134 Acts deemed insulting to royal images include placing photographs of anybody on a website above ones of the king.[15] In March 2007, Oliver Jufer, a Swiss man, was sentenced to 10 years in jail for daubing black paint on portraits of Bhumibol while drunk in Chiang Mai,[16][17] although he received a royal pardon the following month.[18]

Political crisis: A political weapon and ailing King[edit]

Lèse majesté cases filed in Thailand, 2007–17[19]
Year No. of case
2007 36
2008 55
2009 104
2010 65
2011 37
2012 25
2013 57
2014 99
2015 116
2016 101
2017 (9 mo.) 45

Between 1990 and 2005, there were an average of five new cases per year. Since then, however, there have been at least 400 cases - an estimated 1,500 percent increase.[20] Prior to the 2006 coup, targets of lese majeste were mostly politicians, high-ranking bureaucrats and extra-constitutional figures. But after 2007, a common people were included.[14]:124 The law was interpreted to cover past monarchs and symbols associated with the monarch. There have never been anyone who were sentenced to more than ten years jail before 2007.[11]:40–1 Observers attributed the increasing number of lèse-majesté cases in recent years to King Bhumibol's public invitation of criticism in 2005, increased polarization following the 2006 military coup, and to speculation over his declining health in the period before his death in 2016.[20]

In 2005, the case registered in the Atterney General's office rose sharply from 12 new cases in 2000–2004 to 17 in that year alone.[12]:17 Thai Rak Thai and Democrat Party as well as opposition movement People's Alliance for Democracy traded lese majeste accusations.[14]:124 Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's alleged lèse-majesté was one of the stated reasons for the Thai military's 2006 coup.[21][22][23] After the coup, dozens of radio stations were shut down due to alleged lèse majesté.[24]

Academics have been investigated, imprisoned, and forced into exile over accusations of lèse-majesté. Prominent historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul was arrested for proposing an eight-point plan on the reform of the monarchy.[25][26] Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn went into exile in 2007 after his book, A Coup for the Rich, questioned Bhumibol's role in the 2006 coup.[27] In March 2011, Worachet Pakeerat, a law lecturer, banded together with same-minded lecturers and formed the "Nitirat group", aiming to amend the lèse majesté law. He proposed reducing the maximum jail term to three years, a circumstance for pardoning, and that only the Office of His Majesty's Principal Private Secretary can file a complaint. His action angered many people, and in February 2012, he was assaulted in broad daylight in Bangkok.[28]

During the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, the number of arrests and convictions for lèse-majesté offences significantly declined.[5] However, she said she would not seek to reform the law.[29] There were 478 cases in 2010.[30]

A banner in Bangkok informs that using social media to "like" or "share" a picture or article could land them in prison. The banner asks people to "join together to protect the monarchy".

In May 2014, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the military junta, granted authority to a military tribunal to prosecute lèse-majesté in Thailand.[31] Military courts routinely imposed harsher sentences than civilian courts would. In August 2015, the Bangkok Military Court sentenced Pongsak Sriboonpeng to 60 years in prison for his six Facebook postings (later reduced to 30 years, when he pleaded guilty). This was Thailand's longest recorded sentence for lèse-majesté.[32][33] The courts were dubbed "kangaroo courts."[34] The military government has never successfully extradited someone living abroad.[35]

iLaw, a Thai non-profit organization, reported that the junta hold persons in custody for seven days without charges. Secret trials were used. The officials seized personal communication devices to search for incriminating evidence.[36]

In December 2014, the parents of Srirasmi Suwadee, formerly a Thai princess, were sentenced for "insulting the royal family and lodging a malicious claim."[37]

In 2015, Prachatai published an infographic showing that bathroom graffiti, a hand gesture, a hearsay report of a taxi conversation, and not standing during the playing of the royal anthem, among other things, could be punished as acts of lèse-majesté.[38] A nurse wearing black on Bhumibol Adulyadej's birthday was charged with lèse majesté.[39]

The last formal attempt to amend the law occurred in May 2012 when more than 10,000 people signed a petition to the Parliament, but the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Somsak Kiatsuranont, dismissed it citing that amendment of the law concerning the monarchy was not a constitutional right.[40]

Tenth Reign: New trend[edit]

Missing poster of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, alleged lèse majesté offender, who was disappeared in Cambodia in June 2020. It is speculated that his accusation is the motive.

In December 2016, Jatupat "Pai" Boonpattararaksa, a rights group member, was accused of lèse majesté for sharing a BBC Thai biography of Thailand's new king, Vajiralongkorn. He was the only person to be arrested even though more than 2,600 people also shared the story, as well as the publisher BBC Thai who did not face prosecution.[41] In May 2017, the military junta stated that merely viewing material considered lèse-majesté would be a violation of the law.[42] As of November 2018, at least 127 persons have been charged with lèse majesté since the latest coup.[43]

In 2017, there was a case of a 14-year-old who was accused of lèse majesté for burning down a royal decoration arch in Khon Kaen. It was the first prosecution against a minor.[44] A lawyer who did not accept legal proceeding claiming that the court act in the name of the King, thus impartial and unjust.[44] There were several low-profile instances where the authority did not prosecute, but use other intimidation methods instead, such as hold in military custody for seven days, checked for communication devices, asked to unfollow a Facebook page, or asked to speak to a video camera expressing loyalty to the monarch.[44]

As of November 2017, a total of 38 of these cases, 34.2 percent, were in the military court system.[45]

According to non-profit organization Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, since 2018 there has been no new known lèse majesté cases. The Attorney General's directive dated 21 February 2018, issued a new guideline for prosecution. Now only Attorney General can file a lèse majesté case. And in June 2018, there was a new regulation which allow public persecutors to decide against prosecuting cases that did not serve public interest.[46] Unprecedented moves were seen, such as dismissing lèse majesté cases even though the defendants pleaded guilty, and captives had received bail in certain cases.[46] However, the authority now favor invoking other law instead, such as Computer Crime Act and sedition law.[46] On June 15, 2020, Thai Prime Minister and former 2014 Thai coup d'état leader Prayut Chan-o-cha confirmed this stance, stating that King Vajiralongkorn had called for no further use of Section 112.[47]

After the forced disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, alleged lèse majesté offender, in June 2020, #ยกเลิก112 (cancel 112) was trended first in Thai Twitter with more than 500,000 retweets, as netizen believed his accusation was the motive.[48] In August, protests against the government included calls of monarchy reform, including the abolition of Article 112.[49]

Statistics[edit]

Statistics of lèse majesté cases in Thailand[12]:17
Year New cases Conviction
1984–1989 30 15/19 (78.95%)
1990–1994 26 18/19 (94.74%)
1995–1999 32 21/23 (91.30%)
2000–2005 29 15/16 (93.75%)

Social context and impact[edit]

The late King Bhumibol Adulyadej was accorded an almost divine reverence,[50] which still holds true today.

King Rama VI interpreted that insults to the King are also insults to his power source: the people. And every subject was also insulted.[11]:26–7

David Streckfuss, a scholar on Thai human rights and politics, commented that lèse majesté is one factor defining neo-absolutism in Thailand.[14]:110 Lèse majesté is used in less democratic monarchies to protected the system of power.[14]:113 Thai mainstream media has supported the use of the law, and avoid covering it.[14]:117 It also does not discuss the role of the monarchy in the politics, thus created a distorted view.[14]:117 Lese majeste and communism once was the definition of the ultimate traitors, but with the decline of communism, lèse majesté began to define a new kind of traitors.[14]:127

Michael Kelly Connors, a professor in social science from University of Nottingham, wrote that the king had dual position: an agent of political and economic interests and the soul of the nation of glaring disparity between social classes, and thus required controlled imagery. The stage-managed role of the monarch, the compulsory respect shown to the institution, and the pressure of social conformity left many people with a taste of bitterness which few felt confident to express. Thai elites feared that Thai monarchy will be subjected to mockery once it was open to scrutiny, just like the British monarchy.[3]:133–4

Streckfuss and Preechasilpakul wrote that lèse majesté remains the most potent political charge in Thailand and the charges went up in times of political upheaval.[12]:2 Human rights groups say the lèse-majesté laws have been used as a political weapon to stifle free speech.[4] Political scientist Giles Ungpakorn noted that "the lèse-majesté laws are not really designed to protect the institution of the monarchy. In the past, the laws have been used to protect governments and to shield military coups from lawful criticism. This whole [royal] image is created to bolster a conservative elite well beyond the walls of the palace."[51] However, Connors argued that while some have used it as a political weapon, it has always been in the interests of the palace.[3]:134

In November 2020, 15 protesters had been summoned under lese-majesty rules. The protesters were rallying over the monarch’s wealth and power and demanding reforms including, a new constitution. On 25 November 2020, protesters gathered in front of the Siam Commercial Bank and accused King Maha Vajiralongkorn of wasting taxpayers’ money in Germany, while Thailand is facing an economic crisis caused by the coronavirus.[52]

Contemporary scope of the law[edit]

"Article 112 of the Criminal Code is a legislation which supports Article 8 of the Constitution[b] for practical implementation, so there are no grounds to claim it violates or is inconsistent with Article 8 of the Constitution."[11]:20 — A Constitutional Court decision in 2012.
Comparison of lèse majesté laws[14]:115
Country Max. jail term (years)
 Netherlands 0.3[53]
 Denmark 1
 Spain 2
 Morocco 3
 Norway 5
 Sweden 6
 Thailand 15

Section 112 of Thai Criminal Code currently reads as follows:

"Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years."

As lèse-majesté is listed as one of the offences relating to the security of the kingdom, according to Section 7 of the Thai Criminal Code, even alleged offences committed outside the kingdom can be punished within Thailand. Thai courts have demonstrated they will prosecute and jail even non-Thai citizens for offences committed outside of the kingdom as proven in the case against American citizen Joe Gordon who was arrested in May, 2011 when he visited Thailand for medical treatment and later sentenced to five years in jail.[54]

Even if some Western democratic countries seem to have severe jail punishment, it is not necessary controversial if rarely used.[14]:119

In 2007, a controversy arose over whether criticism of members of then King Bhumibol's privy council also constituted criticism of Bhumibol.[55] Police Special Branch Commander Lt Gen Theeradech Rodpho-thong, who refused to file charges of lèse-majesté against activists who launched a petition to oust Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda,[56] was demoted within days of the incident by Police Commander Seripisut Temiyavet.[57]

The Supreme Court of Thailand decided in 2013 that the law also applies to all previous monarchs, further broadening the law.

In a Kafkaesque twist, even calls to reform lèse-majesté laws have, themselves, resulted in charges of lèse-majesté.[58]

In 2013, a man was found guilty of "preparing and attempting" to commit an act of lèse-majesté. He had images and captions deemed lèse-majesté in his electronic device—which, his accusers said, potentially could have been spread online. He was found guilty despite the law providing that mere preparation of the act is not a legal offence.[59]

In 2016, a singer and activist, in addition to his prison sentence for defaming the monarchy, was ordered to write a song promoting "national reconciliation" after completing his sentence. The court order to write a song is outside the scope of the punishments in the Criminal Code.[60]

Due to the uncertain and unpredictable nature of the offense charges, defendants often do not contest them and often plead guilty.[11]:43 It also leads to self-censorship and vigilantism.[11]:43–4

Legal proceedings[edit]

In 2013, a person filed lèse-majesté charges against his own brother, showing how easily the lèse-majesté law can be misused and that the law has now become a potential weapon in family feuds. Often the police, courts, and prosecutors are afraid they will be accused of disloyalty to the monarch if they fail to prosecute allegations of lèse-majesté.[5] Additionally, there are cyberbullying cases where fake accounts were created and lèse majesté material was posted to create misunderstanding that the person actually committed a crime.[61] There has also never been a case where a member of royalty being targeted has filed his or her own case against the accused.

Details of the charges are rarely made public for fear of compounding the offence by repeating the original words deemed to have been insulting. In other words, there is a concern that merely talking about the details of cases could also be considered lèse-majesté.

Article 14 of the Computer Crimes Act BE 2550 (2007), which broadly bars the circulation through computer systems of information and material deemed detrimental to national security, has also been used to prosecute cases of lèse-majesté.[62]

There have been duration when lèse majesté cases are transferred to court-martial, most recently during National Council for Peace and Order regime after the 2014 coup. There are differences of court-martial decisions compared to civilian court ones, including protection of any previous monarchs, alleged counts are considered separately making the punishment twice as harsh, and restriction of right to bail in war time.[63]

Detainees are seen barefoot and shackled at the ankles when brought to court,[34] The courts sometimes use videoconferencing systems for court proceedings, so that defendants do not have to be physically present in the court. Two detainees have died in military custody. One hanged himself, and the other died of a blood infection, according to his autopsy.[64]

Judges have also said the accuser did not necessarily have to prove the information was factual "because if it is true, it is more defamatory, and if it isn't true, then it's super-defamatory."[65] As to why the Criminal Court did not grant the benefit of the doubt to the defendant in the case of Ampon Tangnoppakul, Court of Justice spokesperson Sitthisak Wanachaikit replied:

"When the public prosecutor who institutes the proceedings can exercise his burden of proof to the extent of bringing to light the evil intent of the defendant...the defendant needs to be punished according to the gravity of the case."[66]

Peter Leyland, a professor of SOAS, University of London and Emeritus of London Metropolitan University, explained:

"it [the lese majeste offence] can be committed entirely without criminal intent. There is no need for the prosecuting authorities to bring any evidence to bear relating to foresight on the part of the defendant with regard to the fact of the statement or conduct. [...] The police, prosecuting authorities and judges not only act in the name of the King, but there is an expectation that their loyalty to the Crown will be reflected in an outcome that confirms the dignity of the King at the expense of the accused."[14]:130

Procedures of the courts are lengthy, and the defendants often pleading guilty as the quickest route to freedom.[67] Court decisions are often overturned in the higher courts, thus lengthen the proceedings.[67] Civilian courts often handed 5 years imprisonment sentence per count, while military courts often handed 10 years per count.[40]

Government measures[edit]

Internet censorship[edit]

Image displayed from Thailand's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology when accessing prohibited content, such as The Daily Mail, from Thailand in 2014.

The Office of Prevention and Suppression of Information Technology Crimes maintains a "war room" to monitor for pages which disparage the monarchy. A web crawler is used to search the internet. When an offending image or language is found, the office obtains a court order blocking the site. On 28 October 2008, The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) announced plans to spend about 100–500 million baht to build a gateway to block websites with contents defaming the royal institution.[68]

In 2008, "more than 4,800 webpages ha[d] been blocked...because they contain[ed] content deemed insulting to Thailand's royal family".[69] In December 2010, nearly 60,000 websites have been banned for alleged insults against Bhumibol. In 2011, the number increased to 70,000.[70]

On 4 April 2007, the Thai government blocked Thai access to YouTube as a result of a video clip which it deemed insulting to the king.[71][72][73]

The website of Same Sky Books, publishers of Same Sky magazine, was shut down after comments on its bulletin board questioned mainstream media's claims that the entire country was in mourning over the death of Princess Galyani Vadhana.[74]

In December 2015, the court verdict against Chiranuch Premchaiporn, webmaster of the news website Prachatai, was upheld in the highest court: "an eight-month suspended jail sentence and a 20,000 baht fine".[75] Previously, she had been jailed without bail for nearly a year for not removing—in 2008[75]—an allegedly insulting comment from an article fast enough. Although the comments did not directly mention Bhumibol or members of his family, the court found that Chiranuch displayed insulting intent. Arrested in September 2010, she could face up to 50 years imprisonment if found guilty.[76][77]

In 2016, Facebook blocked users in Thailand from accessing a page satirizing Thailand's royal family, citing the lèse-majesté law. Around the same time, there was speculation that the junta was able to obtain private chat logs of Facebookers.[78]

In 2019, the Facebook page "Royalist Marketplace" was launched as a forum by academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun to discuss and criticize the Thai monarchy freely. The Thai authorities shut down access in Thailand to the Facebook page, which has accumulated around one million users, and which Facebook may be appealing,[79] while Pavin is facing a charge of cybercrime.[80] He has since launched a replacement Facebook page.[81]

Abuse of psychiatry[edit]

On July 9, 2020, Tiwagorn Withiton, a Facebook user who went viral after posting a picture of himself wearing a t-shirt printed with the message "I lost faith in the monarchy" was forcibly detained by police officers and admitted to Rajanagarindra Psychiatric Hospital in Khon Kaen.[82] Tiwaporn is quoted as saying, "I well understand that it is political to have to make people think I'm insane. I won't hold it against the officials if there is a diagnosis that I'm insane, because I take it that they have to follow orders."[83] He was discharged about two weeks later.[84]

Opinion[edit]

Support[edit]

Bowarnsak Suwanno, Ta hai legal scholar, argued that countries limited free speech according to their cultural-legal circumstances.[14]:129 A Thai official said that the lèse majesté law is similar to libel law for commoners. Some abuse their rights by spreading hate speech or distorted information to incite hatred towards the monarchical institution. Those who were accused of lèse majesté have the right to a fair trial, due opportunity to contest the charges and assistance from a lawyer, as well as the right to appeal.[85][c]

An attorney said lèse majesté does not have any relation to democracy, and does not know why there is activism citing it.[86]

The Rubbish Collection Organization, a fascist ultra-royalist organization which was founded during the 2013–2014 Thai political crisis, supports persecution for lèse majesté, and launched an ongoing online campaign of mobbing and doxxing victims, together with other methods of intimidation.[87][88]

In May 2016, a Justice Minister remarked on "concerns raised by United Nations Security Council member countries during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva" on 11 May 2016: "that foreign countries would not understand why Thailand needs the lèse majesté law because they are not "civilised" nations with cultural refinement like ours."[89]

A judge in a 2016 lèse majesté case, which a man was sentenced to seven years and six months in prison, said he would have given a longer sentence, but was advised on the shorter term by the court's deputy president.[90]

Opposition[edit]

The lèse majesté law is described as "draconian".[91] Amnesty International considers anyone jailed for insulting Bhumibol to be a political prisoner, and if they had a peaceful expression and intent, a prisoner of conscience.[92]

Article 112 is typically deployed with politically expedient timing, rather than at the time of the supposed offense. Jakrapob Penkair, a former Minister to the Office of the Prime Minister, commented: "It's not about your action; it's about the timing. They wait until the moment when you seem most vulnerable."[34]

Sulak Sivaraksa said that he felt sad that most Thai intellectuals did not see any harm of this law, calling them "docile livestock."[93]

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye, commenting on the detention of a Thai national who posted a link to a Thai language BBC profile of Thailand's new king, said, "Public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority, may be subject to criticism, and the fact that some forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify restrictions or penalties." Kaye went on to say that such laws "have no place in a democratic country" and called for Thailand to repeal them.[94]

In November 2015, Glyn T. Davies, the US ambassador to Thailand, gave a speech criticizing long prison sentences handed to those found guilty of lèse-majesté. He then was investigated.[95]

Activists against the law or seek to reform it include Mainueng Kor Kunatee (poet who was assassinated in 2014),[96] Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Giles Ji Ungpakorn,[97] Pavin Chachavalpongpun,[98] a former diplomat, an associate professor at the Kyoto University and a leader of a campaign to abolish Article 112 in Thai criminal code, The Nitirat group — an association of law lecturers who campaign for constitutional reform and a change of Thailand's lèse majesté law – includes Worachet Pakeerut, and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Sawatree Suksri, as another member of the Nitirat group.[99]

Satirical reaction[edit]

Not The Nation, an anonymous website[100] that satirizes a Thai newspaper, The Nation, satirized the media and public response paid to the case of Thai American Joe Gordon in contrast to that paid to the drug-related case of Australian Schapelle Corby and to the pardoning of Greek-Cypriot-Australian Harry Nicolaides.[101] NTN later satirized plea bargaining in the "Uncle SMS" case.[102] In December 2013, NTN circumvented the chilling effect of LMIT on discussion of succession with a discussion of the abdication of royal dog Thong Daeng.[103]

In July 2014, British comedian John Oliver described, at the time Crown Prince, Vajiralongkorn as a "buffoon" and showed the leaked video of Vajiralongkorn and his topless wife celebrating the birthday of the prince's poodle, Air Chief Marshal Foo Foo, in a satirical piece about monarchy in general on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.[104] The Thai military government described Oliver as "undermining the royal institution", to which Oliver responded by saying "It seems my Thailand vacation is going to have to be postponed very much indefinitely. If I can bring down your monarchy, you have—at best—a wobbly monarchy."[105]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "To do wrong to majesty"
  2. ^ Reads: "the King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action."
  3. ^ These proceedings are lengthy, and the defendant rarely receives bail (see Legal proceedings section above).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cochrane, Liam (2017-01-11). "New Thai King requests constitutional changes to 'ensure his royal powers': Prime Minister". ABC News. ABC. Retrieved 2017-04-20.
  2. ^ "How powerful people use criminal-defamation laws to silence their critics". The Economist. 13 July 2017. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Connors, Michael Kelly (2003). Democracy and National Identity in Thailand. RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 0-203-36163-6.
  4. ^ a b "Thailand's lese-majeste law explained". 6 October 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2019 – via www.bbc.com.
  5. ^ a b c "World Report 2014: Rights Trends in World Report 2014: Thailand". Human Rights Watch. 21 January 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  6. ^ a b "2014 coup marks the highest number of lese majeste prisoners in Thai history". Prachatai English. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  7. ^ hermes (8 August 2015). "Record jail terms for royal insults". The Straits Times. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
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    The United States is disappointed by the prosecutor's decision to file lese majeste charges against U.S. citizen Joe Gordon. We have discussed Mr. Gordon's case extensively with Thai authorities, stressing at every possible opportunity his rights as an American citizen. We urge the Thai authorities to ensure freedom of expression is respected and that Mr. Gordon, a U.S. citizen, receives fair treatment.

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Literature[edit]

  • David Streckfuss (2011), Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, Treason and Lèse-majesté, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-41425-8

External links[edit]