UN human right experts speak out against Thailand’s “severe” use of lèse majesté law

United Nations human rights experts are speaking out against Thailand’s “severe” use of the lèse majesté law, saying the law is used to “curtail criticism of the monarchy” and it has no place in a democratic country.

There has been an increase in the use of the lèse majesté law since the rise of the student-led pro-democracy movement last year. Recently, a woman was sentenced to more than 43 years in prison for insulting the royal family. UN human rights experts wrote in a news release that they are “alarmed” by the harsh punishment.

Last month, the Bangkok Criminal Court sentenced the 60 year old former public official to more than 4 decades in prison for violating the country’s draconian lèse majesté law. Anchan Preelert had posted audio clips on Facebook and YouTube of a man making comments that are considered to be critical of the Thai Monarchy.

The lèse majesté law carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison. The former official was found guilty on 29 counts of violating Section 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code, known as the lèse majesté law, as well as violating the Computer Crime Act.

“We urge the appeal court to reconsider the case of Anchan Preelert in line with international human rights standards and set aside the harsh sentence.”

The Thai government briefly stopped charging people under the lèse majesté law in 2018. But with the rise of the pro-democracy movement and activists pushing for monarchy reform, police began to invoke the law. Since November, more than 40 young activists have been charged under the law for speaking out on taboo subjects since November, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. Some minors face charges under the law for exercising their freedom of expression, the human rights experts say.

“Their increasingly harsh application has had the effect of chilling freedom of expression and further restricting civic space and the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms in Thailand.”

“We are profoundly disturbed by the reported rise in the number of lèse majesté prosecutions since late 2020 and the harsher prison sentences.”

SOURCES:UN News | Bangkok Post

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Caitlin Ashworth

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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