Akechai on lese majeste

19 04 2013

At Prachatai, academic Tyrell Haberkorn has translated a remarkable document by now-imprisoned lese majeste activist Akechai Hongkangwarn.

Sentenced at the end of March , Akechai has requested bail while he appealed the conviction, but bail has been denied and he remains in the overcrowded Bangkok Remand Prison.

Prior to his conviction, Akechai wrote an analysis of the history of the lese majeste law over more than 100 years, the  Computer Crimes Act,  and the recent efforts to changes these laws and implement political amnesties. This tract is long and deserving of study. Here, PPT mentions just a few highlights.

In noting the first lese majeste law on 1 June 1908, Akechai notes that the law applied to king, queen, crown prince and regent but also applied to historical royalty and could apply to “anyone who violated either of these two laws in a foreign country would be punished in Siam.”

The revised Criminal Code promulgated on 13 November 1956  “reduced the number of people protected to only include the present-day King, Queen, Heir-apparent, and Regent, eliminated fines and kept a maximum 7 year sentence, but set no minimum. Akechai says: “This was tantamount to repealing Article 100 of the Penal Code of R.S. 127 [1908].” The application to those overseas remained.

It was following the massacre and coup of 6 October 1976 and under the present king’s selected prime minister, Thanin Kraivixien, that Article 112 was strengthened, setting a minimum sentence of 3 years and a maximum of 15 years.

The only other times that even harsher measures were proposed was following the 2006 coup. First, when yet another king’s favorite, Surayud Chulanot, was prime minister. As Akechai notes, only heavy local and international criticism saw the proposed changes dropped. Second, under pro-Thaksin Shinawatra premier Samak Sundaravej, who was also involved in the regressions of 1976. This amendment was also withdrawn.

The 2007 Computer Crimes Act, first proposed during Thaksin’s government and made law under Surayud’s appointed regime, is “an attempt by the rulers to promulgate a new law in order to control lèse majesté from spreading on the internet, because it could not be addressed by Article 112.” Like laws of old, “anyone who violated this law in a foreign country would be punished in Thailand…”.

On amnesty, Akechai “found 3 amnesty laws which constituted an amnesty for Articles 98 and 100 of the Penal Code of R.S. 127 [lese majeste] and Article 112 [lese majeste] of the Criminal Code.” He notes that there “have not been any laws which provide an amnesty for the Computer Crimes Act.”

The first granted amnesty to the 1932 People’s Party. The second was under Kriangsak Chomanan, in 1978, when he “passed the Amnesty for those who committed offences in the demonstrations at Thammasat University between 4 and 6 October 1976′.” It covered a lese majeste case. The third was in 1989, under the “government of General Chartchai Choonhavan [that] issued an amnesty for those whose actions were a violation of national security of the state in the kingdom following the Criminal Code and offences under the Anti-Communist Activities Act of 1989.” It also applied indirectly to at least one lese majeste case involving Veera Musigapong.

When he examines drafts of amnesty laws in the current period, Akechai states:

Among all 8 of the draft amnesty laws proposed by various sectors during the past 2 years, there is not even one that mentions amnesty for lèse majesté or Article 112 of the Criminal Code/Computer Crimes Act at all. Yet it may be incorrect to conclude that these amnesty laws do not provide an amnesty for lèse majesté.

I have examined the 8 draft amnesty laws and found 2 drafts of interest. These are the Draft Constitution for Amnesty and Eliminating the Conflict (proposed by the Khana Nitirat in 2013, timeframe of 19 September 2006 — 9 May 2011) and the Draft Act for Amnesty for People Imprisoned and Undergoing Prosecution Resulting from Political Conflict from 1 January 2007 until 31 December 2011 (proposed by the UDD in 2013, timeframe of 1 January 2007 – 31 December 2011).

… Upon examination of these two drafts, I am certain that these are amnesties for lèse majesté, but not that every case of lèse majesté can be covered by the amnesty from these two draft laws.