Rights teams repeatedly accuse Thai authorities of weaponizing controversial lese majeste legislation
Anti-government protest chief Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul reads letters of help for activists detained for numerous fees throughout an illustration calling for the abolition of Thailand’s royal defamation legal guidelines outdoors Bangkok Remand Jail on March 3. (Picture: AFP)
Thai authorities are charging increasingly democracy activists with royal defamation whereas ignoring calls from worldwide rights teams to cease doing so.
Final week alone, three younger girls belonging to the activist group Thaluwang have been charged with lese majeste, a criminal offense punishable with as much as 15 years in jail per cost.
Their crime? They carried out a avenue ballot final month by asking passersby in regards to the constitutionally assured privileges of the monarchy, an establishment that pro-democracy activists say wants reforming.
The three girls, who’re of their early 20s, have been taken from their condo constructing in Bangkok by plainclothes cops and detained in a single day at a police station earlier than being launched on bail final weekend, in keeping with Thai Legal professionals for Human Rights, a bunch that assists Thais charged with royal defamation.
Two of the ladies, recognized solely by their first names as Nutthanit and Netiporn, had beforehand been charged twice with lese majeste and different fees equivalent to sedition.
They have been charged final December for holding up an indication through which they known as for the abolition of the royal defamation legislation after which they have been slapped with a second royal defamation cost in February for conducting a avenue ballot on royal motorcades, which might paralyze visitors in Bangkok.
In 2020, a 60-year-old lady, a former civil servant, was sentenced to 87 years in jail, which was later halved to 43 years, merely for sharing audio clips on-line essential of the Thai monarchy
The third activist, recognized as Supitcha, had additionally been charged with royal defamation twice earlier than over her activism.
If convicted on all three fees, every of the younger girls may resist 45 years in jail along with doable jail sentences handed down for different alleged crimes equivalent to sedition — and this in a rustic the place a policeman who not too long ago killed a younger girls on a pedestrian crossing in Bangkok whereas breaking a number of visitors legal guidelines acquired a mere 12 months in jail.
“Criticizing highly effective folks is [regarded by law as] a worse crime than killing somebody,” a younger pro-democracy activist mentioned poignantly in an interview with UCA Information. “That is unacceptable.”
In the meantime, additionally final week, a former anti-government activist known as Sombat Thongyoi was sentenced to 6 years in jail over three posts on Fb in late 2020. The person’s feedback, the court docket mentioned in handing down the sentence, insulted the monarchy and violated the structure.
Paradoxically, the person acquired off comparatively evenly as far harsher sentences have been handed down in royal defamation instances. In 2020, a 60-year-old lady, a former civil servant, was sentenced to 87 years in jail, which was later halved to 43 years, merely for sharing audio clips on-line essential of the Thai monarchy.
Over the previous two years, rights teams have repeatedly accused Thai authorities of weaponizing the controversial lese majeste legislation, codified as Article 112 of the Legal Code. Since late 2020, effectively over 180 Thais, largely younger democracy activists, have been charged with royal defamation, a few of them quite a few instances.
“The vigorous enforcement of Article 112 to criminalize the actions of pro-democracy activists, protesters and critics of the monarchy has resulted in blatant violations of the rights to liberty, freedom of expression, and truthful trial,” Adilur Rahman Khan, secretary-general of the Worldwide Federation for Human Rights, warned final 12 months in an announcement.
“The Thai authorities should finish this abuse and instantly heed requires the modification of Article 112.”
Thailand’s military-allied authorities has shrugged off such damning assessments, saying that any criticism of the monarchy is a menace to nationwide safety
Different rights teams have famous that the royal defamation legislation is only one of a number of instruments the Thai institution has employed to stifle dissent in a nation dominated successfully by the army for the previous eight years following a coup in opposition to an elected authorities in Might 2014.
“The federal government [has] redoubled its efforts to limit the rights to freedom of expression and peaceable meeting. Police used extreme drive in opposition to protesters. Authorities judicially harassed and arbitrarily detained pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders,” Amnesty Worldwide defined.
“Authorities [have] elevated the usage of lese majeste legal guidelines and criminally accused no less than  folks, together with youngsters, of defaming the monarchy,” the rights group added.
Thailand’s military-allied authorities has shrugged off such damning assessments, saying that any criticism of the monarchy is a menace to nationwide safety.
“[The law] displays the tradition and historical past of Thailand, the place the monarchy is likely one of the most important pillars of the nation, extremely revered by the vast majority of Thai folks,” Nadhavathna Krishnamra, a International Ministry consultant, mentioned not too long ago. “Its existence is carefully linked to safeguarding the important thing nationwide establishments and nationwide safety.”
Nevertheless, many specialists have taken subject with the federal government’s line, arguing that the nation’s regressive royal defamation legislation has no place in a contemporary society.
“The protesters declare that the king holds huge, arbitrary energy that should [be] introduced underneath the structure. For royalists, he’s completely entitled to his expansive royal prerogative. They see the monarch as sacred and inviolable, a semi-divine embodiment of each the nation and Thai Buddhism,” James Buchanan, a visiting lecturer in politics at Mahidol College Worldwide Faculty in Nakhon Pathom province, defined in an essay.
“This makes lese majeste rather more than a mere defamation legislation and extra like sedition and blasphemy rolled into one,” he confused.