Lese majeste in the Middle East and Thailand

19 02 2013

This story, “Arab Spring and Lèse-Majesté” from Beiruit’s Al-Akhbar is bound to be of interest to PPT’s readers. The article begins:

Despite its failings and opportunism, the Arab Spring has emboldened subjects against rulers and brought down all that was sacred. In efforts to protect their realms, Gulf rulers are prepared to mete out punishment to any who dare commit the crime of crimes: “defaming the majesty of the emir, sultan, or king.”

PPT thought the rundown on these punishments provided a telling comparison with Thailand’s draconian lese majeste law.

Kuwait, which polishes royal posteriorsas much as Thailand, has seen “dozens have been charged with the offense [“offending the majesty of the Emir”], including several former MPs…”. The oily, autocratic monarchy deems that “all who criticize its ruler – whether in an article, Tweet, or speech – could face either a fine or a ten-year prison sentence. This is mandated by article 54 of the constitution.” That article states: “The Amir is the Head of the State. His person is immune and inviolable.” Despite this pressure, political opponents have declared: “We do not fear your jails or your obedience … and we will not allow your autocratic rule.” Recent convictions of political speakers have been for 3-5 years.

In the Sultanate of Oman, six people have recently been sentenced “for comments made on social media sites that were considered insults to Sultan Qaboos. Their sentences range from 12 to 18 months and they must each pay a fine of 1,000 Omani Rial, or $2,600.”censorship-1

The emir of Qatar, known as the landlord of London, and heading a despotic monarchy a poet received a life sentnece for “incitement to overthrow the regime and defaming the prince…”.

In Jordan, the “law sentences all those who defame the ‘royal self’ with up to three years in prison.”

In Morocco, “offending the king in a private setting” can lead to one year in a jail and three years if the comments are made in public, with the violations including “publishing satirical cartoons, spreading malicious rumors, and replacing or changing the sequence in the [state] slogan: God, nation, and king.”

In amongst these semi-feudal absolutist regimes, the mention of Thailand is significant:

The harshest punishment in the world for defamation is in Thailand, whose constitution mandates a sentence of up to 15 years for defaming the “royal self.” Just last month, Voice of Taksin editor Somyot Pruksakasemsuk was sentenced on such a charge.



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