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POLITICAL PRISONERS IN THAILAND (PPT) is dedicated to those who are held in Thailand’s prisons, charged with political crimes. We seek to raise the cases of those who are accused of political crimes. Our focus is the contemporary period where political cases revolve around the use of Thailand’s lese majeste law, the Computer Crimes Act and the sedition law.
We are also interested in the politics that generates these political crimes and political events related to broader rights issues and the struggles to define democratic progress in Thailand.
The authors of this blog are friends of Thailand who oppose the jailing of opponents for political reasons. We support the expansion of free speech in Thailand. The blog is a kind of website of record on lese majeste and other political cases.
We are a totally independent group. We have absolutely no financial or other support from anyone or any organization and we derive no income from this blog.
Because this blog includes material that is banned in Thailand, we choose to remain anonymous. We are also limiting postings to English or English/Thai as we believe that this is one way to raise the international profile of the issues.
PPT has no connection whatsoever to any person charged with lese majeste or their legal representatives. All of our information is drawn from publicly available sources.
This blog was established in January 2009.
Thailand has had a checkered political history since its first steps towards democratic forms of government in 1932, when the absolute monarchy was overthrown. Since that time, there have been numerous cases of politically motivated arrests, jailings and murders, often perpetrated by state officials – usually the military – operating with impunity.
As Thailand’s politics became more vigorous and divided following the 2006 military coup, arrests and imprisoning through accusations of lese majeste and acts against “national security” have become increasingly common. Lese majeste and the Computer Crimes Act are used by governments and political figures to denounce opponents and to protect privileges and positions. We are deeply concerned and alarmed regarding the political uses of lese majeste and other repressive laws in Thailand. Specifically, we were troubled by the vigorous pursuit of lese majeste cases and so-called computer crimes by the Democrat Party-led coalition government that came to power, with military and palace backing, in December 2008.
Lese majeste is defined as: “anyone who defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the crown prince or the regent” (Article 112 of the Thai penal code). While the lese majeste law has been criticized for many years as “draconian,” the Democrat Party proposes to further strengthen the law and accelerate on-going investigations and prosecutions of those accused of lese majeste.
The Democrat Party-led government (2008-11) rapidly expanded censorship, blocked tens of thousands of web pages it considered offensive to the monarchy and presided over hundreds of new charges and arrests. All of this in the defense of some ill-defined notion of “national security.” By late 2010, there likely to have been some 350 jailed following lese majeste convictions or related computer crimes charges. The persons involved – accused, charged and sentenced – are journalists, bloggers, academics, authors, political and social activists and average Thais. A number of foreigners were also charged and jailed.
Various governments have made the point that the monarchy should be untouchable and that it is universally admired and revered by all Thais. The massive expansion of censorship and state vigilance showed this claim of universal reverence as patently false.
The advent of the elected Puea Thai Party government in July 2011 saw an initial decline in lese majeste accusations, charges and arrests. Yet this government did not repudiate these draconian laws and as political contestation increased, so did the lese majeste charges.
When the elected Puea Thai Party government was thrown out on 22 May 2014 in a military coup led by royalist General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the use of the monarchy for political legitimacy saw an immediate and large spike in the use of lese majeste charges against supporters of the ousted government. The lese majeste law was also used by this regime in 2014 and 2015 to jail many who have fallen out with the crown prince.
While there remain charges and people imprisoned, PPT will continue to shine an international light on the political use of these laws. International scrutiny of these cases is urgently required to ensure the protection of human rights and freedom of expression.
Originally posted 26 January 2009 (updated 1 November 2009, 13 August 2011, 18 October 2012, 19 October 2013, 21 September 2014, 21 October 2014; 14 January 2015, 4 July 2015, 30 May 2016)