A lese majeste update

10 09 2012

The Human Rights Brief is a student-run publication at American University Washington College of Law that has operated since 1994 out of the school’s Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. The Brief has about 4,000 subscribers in over 130 countries. Last week, it commented on Thailand and the lese majeste law, featuring on its front page this week.

PPT won’t post it all as this academic site is unlikely to be blocked in Thailand, yet some aspects deserve highlighting.

The article begins by noting that Joe Gordon, Ampol Tangnopakul and Darunee Charnchoensilpakul were each sentenced in late 2011. For those who forget these things, those sentences all came after the Yingluck Shinawatra government had been elected to office, although all cases began under earlier administrations. The report notes that these “three cases in particular have triggered international expressions of concern and much domestic debate and activism in a struggle for the future of freedom of expression in Thailand in 2012.”

The report argues that: “Before 2006, Article 112 had been used most frequently by political elites to attack each other’s devotion to the monarchy, which became a proxy for targeting enemies with dissenting political views.” Following the 2006 military coup, the monarchy and the law have been highly politicized.

It is noted that Thailand is:

a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) since 1996, Article 19 of which obligates the country to protect the rights of individuals who seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds. Nevertheless, supporters of Thailand’s constitutional monarchy deny the law’s harsh effect on freedom of expression. Instead, they cite the need to protect the monarchy as an institution to justify continued enforcement of Article 112.

Further to this, the report reminds us that:

Thailand underwent its Universal Periodic Review in early October 2011, where 14 member states recommended amending or repealing Article 112. A few days later, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Frank la Rue issued a statement calling for amendments to both Article 112 and the CCA. According to the Special Rapporteur, the laws are overly broad and impose harsh criminal sanctions unnecessary to preserve Thailand’s monarchy or national security.

Finally, the report points out that the Yingluck administration has caved in on lese majeste in an effort to appease political opponents in the royalist and palace camps. Hence, it is argues that international pressure and domestic debate about Article 112 must continue.