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

Caitlin Ashworth




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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  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


    Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 5:49 pm

    Just show respect. Simple.

    • Avatar


      Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 7:54 pm

      Seems you’ve missed the point. American?

      • Avatar


        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


      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


      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


        Friday, February 12, 2021 at 9:12 pm

        My above comment is for Slugger.

  3. Avatar


    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


    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


    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


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

      Why should anyone respect that?

    • Avatar


      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


    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


    Friday, February 12, 2021 at 12:11 pm

    Wow they find out about everything!

  10. Avatar


    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.

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