Lese majeste in 2018

16 01 2019

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have a useful analysis of the use of lese majeste in 2018.

They begin with the background:

Since late 2016, in the aftermath of the passing of King Rama IX and the accession of King Rama X, prosecutions of lèse majesté cases or the violation of the Penal Codes Section 112 spiked sharply. The witch huntor vigilante actions taken against people who hold different views led to prosecution of dozens of lèse majesté cases.

In fact, since the 2006 military coup, there have been several “spikes.” After that coup, during the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime and then since the 2014 coup.

For 2018, there’s not just been a precipitous decline in cases, there’s been none:

The year 2018 saw a number of changes to the enforcement of Section 112. No new cases invoking Section 112 have been prosecuted in 2018 (as far as we know). Meanwhile, several ongoing lèse majesté cases have been dismissed, particularly cases under the review of civilian courts, though this does not necessarily indicate more freedom to exercise the right to free expression in Thailand. Even though the authorities are now reluctant to press lèse majesté charges, charges invoking other laws including the Computer Crime Act or “sedition” per Section 116 continue to be an important tool to restrict freedom of expression and purge dissenters.

TLHR see the cause of this decline as being in the palace:

These changes can be directly attributed to the royal succession. It has not stemmed from the authorities or personnel in the justice process realizing the many protracted problems caused by the enforcement of Section 112. It has also not stemmed from more respect for human rights in Thailand.

Remember all those royalists who used to make excuses for that nice old man, good King Bhumibol, lamenting that he really disliked 112, but those nasty politicians and military types just wouldn’t listen? King Vajiralongkorn has shown how much buffalo manure that propaganda line was.

Sulak Sivaraksa wrote that Vajiralongkorn “instructed the Chief Justice and the Attorney General to bring to an end to prosecutions invoking Section 112 and to not allow it to be used as a political tool.” It seems that on this point, Vajiralongkorn has more sense than his father. That’snot to say that there weren’t dozens of lese majeste cases directly related to Vajiralongkorn such as the spate around his separation from his consort in late 2014 and early 2015.

One result of Vajiralongkorn’s intervention is outlined:

The Attorney General’s directive dated 21 February 2018, addressed to high-ranking officials of all levels in the Attorney General’s Office, instructs all units of the public prosecutor’s department to receive and review immediately investigation reports filed by inquiry officials regarding Section 112 cases. The public prosecutors are then instructed also to furnish the Office of the Attorney General a copy of the police investigation report in each case and not to make any decisions about these cases. They are informed that it is the Attorney General who will decide as to whether the cases will be filed in Court or not. Now the rank-and-file public prosecutors no longer have the power to order prosecution of 112 cases.

The other impact that this change from the top has brought has been that several cases have been dropped, even when those accused have entered a guilty plea. Sometimes the defendants have been convicted of other offenses or were already serving long jail terms.

TLHR conclude:

Amidst changes in the status, role and content of the laws concerning the monarchy in 2018, any expression of thought in public, including any criticisms based on factual information, could be construed as a sensitive comment and could be deemed “crossing the line” in Thailand.

Change seems to have taken place in ‘form’, though the ‘substance’ of the law remains the same.


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