Thailand: Repeal Lèse Majesté law that threatens Freedom of Expression
Fri, 25/01/2013 - 14:09 | by prachatai
Condemning the 10-year prison sentence for Somyot Prueksakasemsuk
(25 January 2013, Seoul) People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) condemns recent ruling by the Thai Criminal Court on Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a Thai labour activist and human rights defender, under the charge of violating lèse majesté law. PSPD urges the Government of Thailand to immediately repeal lèse majesté law which threats freedom of expression and silence political dissents.
Lèse majesté law is stipulated in section 112 of the Criminal Code which states “whoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years”. The international society has continuously urged the Thai Government to repeal or amend lèse majesté law as it can easily violate human rights due to its vagueness, and disproportionate and harsh punishment. In 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression recommended amendment of lèse majesté laws while pointing out that “The laws are vague and overly broad, and the harsh criminal sanctions are neither necessary nor proportionate to protect the monarchy or national security”. However, on 10 October 2012, the Thailand Constitutional Court ruled lèse majesté law as constitutional under the reason “penalty for offenders is needed to maintain public order and good morals of the people in accordance with the rule of law”.
Lèse majesté law has been abused and arbitrarily applied for political reasons to silence human rights defenders. In May 2012, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, the editor of Prachatai, received two-year suspended sentence for lèse majesté comments posted on their online forum. In 2011, Amphon Tangnoppakul, also known as Uncle SMS, was sentenced 20-year imprisonment under the charge of violating lèse majesté law and the Computer Crimes Act for sending lèse majesté SMS. Somyot was sentenced to 5 years for each count of two articles, in addition to 1-year suspended sentence for a previous violation which makes in total 11-year imprisonment. Before he was arrested, Somyot launched a petition campaign to collect 10,000 signatures required for a parliamentary review of lèse majesté law. Serious concerns were raised that his campaign made him a target to be charged under lèse majesté law which explains why he was charged right after launching a petition campaign, a year after two lèse majesté articles are published. In August 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention pointed out that Somyot’s detention was arbitrary and requested the Thai Government to release him in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that the Government has ratified.
PSPD reiterates its grave concerns on the abuse of lèse majesté law to seriously threat freedom of expression and silence political dissents. Lèse majesté law should be repealed immediately and the Thai Government should protect and promote freedom of expression of human rights defenders.
People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) is a non-governmental organisation based in Seoul, South Korea and has been working on promoting people’s participation in government’s decision making process and socio-economic reforms. In particular, PSPD International Solidarity Committee has been working on human rights and democratization movements in Asia. www.peoplepower21.org/english