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Human Rights Watch says Thailand abuses lèse majesté law to silence protesters

Caitlin Ashworth

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Human Rights Watch says Thailand abuses lèse majesté law to silence protesters | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai PBS
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The Human Rights Watch is speaking up against Thailand’s use of the lèse majesté law after 4 prominent pro-democracy activists were denied bail by the Bangkok Criminal Court and ordered into pretrial detention for allegedly insulting or defaming the Thai Monarchy. The HRW says the activists could be in detention for years until their trials are concluded.

At a time of ongoing political protests calling on monarchy reform, Thai authorities have been “abusing” the draconian lèse majesté law by using it to “aggressively clamp down on speech they don’t like,” according to HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams.

“Holding people in pretrial detention for peaceful expression portends a return to the dark days when people simply charged with this crime end up spending years in jail while their trials drag on interminably.”

The lèse majesté law, under Section 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code, carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison for insulting or defaming the Thai Monarchy. The activists, Arnon Nampha, Parit Chiwarak, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem, also face sedition charges which carries a penalty of up to 7 years in prison.

Thailand went around 3 years without a lèse majesté charge in court. With the recent student-led pro-democracy movement gaining traction late last year, many making statements considered taboo in Thai society, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha called for Thai authorities to bring back the lèse majesté prosecutions, according to the HRW. At least 58 people have been faced lèse majesté charges related to activities at pro-democracy rallies or comments online since November, the HRW says.

United Nations human rights experts also spoke out against Thailand’s use of the law, saying the country has severely used the law to “curtail criticism of the monarchy.” They says they were “alarmed” by the recent case where a Thai woman was sentenced to more than 43 years in prison for insulting the royal family.

Adams says the Thai government should address protesters’ demands rather than arresting them.

“The authorities should immediately end their heavy-handed enforcement of the lèse majesté law and engage in a dialogue with United Nations experts and others about amending the law to bring it into compliance with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations.”

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 5:48 pm

    Yes every one should know this by now.
    This is the governments ace in the game, and it seems it is the winning card.

  2. Avatar

    Slugger

    Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 5:49 pm

    Just show respect. Simple.

    • Avatar

      BC

      Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 7:54 pm

      Seems you’ve missed the point. American?

      • Avatar

        EdwardV

        Friday, February 12, 2021 at 1:24 am

        No Slugger got the point, a point he agrees with. From numerous past posts Slugger is either Chinese or at least a CCP sympathizer. However asking him if he’s American was ironically a very good put down.

    • Avatar

      Pedro

      Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 9:07 pm

      We have been through this before Slugger. It has nothing to do with respect – which must go both ways to work – it is about the misuse of the law by the ruling quasi Military dictatorship you seem to love so much, in order to control the people who simply want freedom and democracy. That misuse of Section 112, as I have suggested before, can be argued that it is surely as insulting to the monarchy under lèse majesté legislation as anything else, and therefore the Government themselves could be guilty of this ‘crime’. If you want to preach about respect, start with the military who do not respect the people and let them set the good example.

    • Avatar

      Singharacha

      Friday, February 12, 2021 at 9:04 pm

      You are right.

      What is this foreign organization that allows itself to judge whether a sovereign country respects “human rights” or not? By what right? According to what criteria? And on the basis of criteria chosen by whom?

      • Avatar

        Singharacha

        Friday, February 12, 2021 at 9:12 pm

        My above comment is for Slugger.

  3. Avatar

    Ian

    Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 7:51 pm

    How can you show respect to dictators NEVER, this is only the beginning thecwo4ld is on board now to help bring down this corrupt government

  4. Avatar

    luca

    Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 8:01 pm

    in Thailand a military dictatorship governs, many of the neighboring countries are in the same conditions, the law on the king serves precisely to put those who oppose it in jail, obviously the king also prefers military dictatorship to democracy, he could lose much of his wealth, the future will see more repression

  5. Avatar

    Jim kelly

    Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 8:38 pm

    two words.. “watch Vimeo!!”

  6. Avatar

    Maag

    Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 8:45 pm

    Our king is a great king…..with 2 queen….should respect the royal family !

    • Avatar

      James R

      Friday, February 12, 2021 at 12:42 am

      Maag

      Which queen? He seems to get a new queen every few years, or a new mistress etc.

      Why should anyone respect that?

    • Avatar

      Andre

      Saturday, February 13, 2021 at 7:12 pm

      2 queens, but you forgot the 20 hookers?

  7. Avatar

    Jim kelly

    Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 9:01 pm

    ERRR? What about all those already exiled… am I missing something here?

  8. Avatar

    Dreamon

    Friday, February 12, 2021 at 12:51 am

    Thailand it’s a fake Democracy, ruled by Monarchy, hiding behind a military dictatorship! what’s the news?

  9. Avatar

    Ynwaps

    Friday, February 12, 2021 at 12:11 pm

    Wow they find out about everything!

  10. Avatar

    Bob

    Saturday, February 13, 2021 at 6:04 pm

    Silly stupid people – when will they ever learn. Question – how do you eat a large animal? One piece at a time – and it takes time. The young people combining their issues about the Junta with their issues about the Monarchy are stupid and naive. They are playing right into the Junta’s hands. Protest against the Junta and the lack of real Democracy by all means – but leave the Monarchy out of things now. In the distant future when a true Democracy is in place and the Military is in its place, then and only then, look into any reforms about the Monarchy. Taking them both on at the same time is silly, naive and stupid.

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

Politics

Civil rights activist contests new version of NGO bill

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Civil rights activist contests new version of NGO bill | The Thaiger

A civil rights activist is accusing Thailand’s cabinet of revising a law without gaining the public’s input. The new version of the bill, which is supposed to dictate transparency in the promotion and development of civil society organisations, includes the words “non‐profit,” while the original version does not.

The bill is also supposed to provide oversight of NGOs who may receive financial assistance from overseas sources. According to Bangkok Post, an unnamed source says such NGOs are under scrutiny, especially the ones who accuse Thai authorities of violating human rights and then use such claims to seek funds.

Sappasit Khumprapan, chairman of the Centre for the Protection of Children’s Rights Foundation, is also the chairman of a subcommittee drafting the bill. He says he will challenge the bill in the Constitutional Court if the word “non‐ profit” is not dropped before it is sent to the House of Representatives. Sappasit says the law is “extremely rightist” and says it should be improved before reaching the House.

Civil society organisations under the revised law must register as non‐profit entitites with the Interior Ministry’s Department of Provincial Administration while disclosing their audited accounts, annual income taxes and fund sources each year.

But deputy government spokeswoman, Rachada Dhnadirek, says the law is intended to increase the monitoring of NGOs.

“The draft law is intended to promote transparency and accountability, not to stifle their activities.”

Rachada says if these NGOs receive funds from non-Thai citizens or organisations, they are limited to spending the money on activities allowed by Thai law. So far, despite Thailand having thousands of NGOs, only 87 have been registered.

Thailand’s PM Prayut says the law must not be discussed in detail to prevent confusion and misunderstandings. The proposed bill will be submitted for public hearings, with input from those hearings to be sent to the Council of State for review.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Indonesian and Thai foreign ministers meet with Myanmar counterpart, seek peace after coup

Caitlin Ashworth

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Indonesian and Thai foreign ministers meet with Myanmar counterpart, seek peace after coup | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To seek a peaceful solution in Myanmar after the country’s military seized power, foreign ministers of Indonesia and Thailand met with the new, military-appointed foreign minister of Myanmar Wunna Maung Lwinat at Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport for a brief, 20 minute discussion.

Both the Indonesian and Thai counterparts say they want peace, but the Indonesian foreign minister says Thailand has a “special position” to play because of its proximity to Myanmar and the number of Burmese nationals in Thailand. The Thai-Myanmar land border is 2,400 kilometres long. There are around 2 million Burmese people who live in Thailand.

With the elected civilian government pushed out and many political leaders arrested, including Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the election for state counsellor in a landslide and also served as the foreign minister, there have been daily protests in Myanmar. A strike on Monday shut a number of businesses. Burmese nationals living in Thailand have even held demonstrations in Bangkok. Some rallied outside the US Embassy in Bangkok, calling on the American government to step in.

The meeting between the 3 foreign ministers was the first overseas visit for a senior Myanmar official since the military coup on February 1. A spokesperson for the Thai Foreign Ministry, Tanee Sangrat, says the ministry insists on peace and stability in Myanmar and hopes to see the situation improve.

“It was also a good opportunity for Thailand to directly listen to Myanmar about issues that Myanmar prioritizes, as well as exchanging opinions on issues important to the people for both countries.”

At a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said she asked her Myanmar counterpart to “prioritise the safety and wellbeing” of the people. She says all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations must respect the principles in the ASEAN Charter which outlines principles of democracy as well as protection for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“This shuttle diplomacy is surely not easy to do during the times of pandemic, but Indonesia has to do it because there are some principles that must be respected…Indonesia chooses not to stay silent…To do nothing is not an option.”

Indonesia has been pushing for a special ASEAN foreign ministerial session to discuss the Myanmar situation. Thai and Indonesian foreign ministers also discussed potentially holding an informal ASEAN meeting in August. The forum has not met in person since the Covid-19 pandemic.

SOURCE: Kyodo News

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Politics

Behind bars: government ministers among 29 jailed for Yingluck protests

Maya Taylor

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Behind bars: government ministers among 29 jailed for Yingluck protests | The Thaiger
Anti-government protests in Bangkok in 2013. PHOTO: Wikimedia

A number of government ministers have been jailed for their part in protests against the government of Yingluck Shinawatra that crippled Bangkok and ultimately led to the 2014 military coup. Yesterday, the Criminal Court handed prison sentences to 29 former members of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, some of whom were serving in the current administration.

Former politician and former deputy PM, Suthep Thaugsuban, has been sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment for leading the protests against the Yingluck government during 2013 and 2014. Education minister Nataphol Teepsuwan has received a prison sentence of 6 years and 16 months, while the deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senniam received a 4 year sentence. Buddhipongse Punnakanta, former Digital Economy and Society Minister, has been sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment.

In total, 29 ex-PDRC members have been found guilty of charges including terrorism and insurrection and handed sentences from 4 months to 11 years. They are now barred from holding political office, meaning PM Prayut Chan-o-cha may be looking at a Cabinet reshuffle. He has held the position of PM since seizing power in the 2014 military coup that ended the PDRC protests.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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