Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thailand tally: 110 charged with lese majeste in year



Thailand tally: 110 charged with lese majeste in year

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Pro-democracy protesters give the three-finger salute as they occupy the Democracy Monument during an anti-government rally in Bangkok on October 14, 2020. AFP

Thailand tally: 110 charged with lese majeste in year

More than 100 protesters have been charged under Thailand’s royal insult laws since July last year, when rallies across the kingdom began demanding reforms to the unassailable monarchy, a lawyer representing the activists and an AFP tally showed on August 3.

A mostly youth-led movement kicked off last summer, fuelled by discontent with the government of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former military chief who first came to power in a coup in 2014.

A year since those rallies began, 110 protesters have been charged under lese majeste laws for their role in the movement, which called for Prayut to step down, a rewrite to the military-scripted constitution, and for royal reforms and at their peak drew tens of thousands to the streets.

Prominent leader Parit Chiwarak – better known as “Penguin” – holds the record of some 20 charges, while at least eight other protesters – all under 18 – are also facing charges.

If found guilty, they face sentences of three to 15 years in jail per charge.

“It is a severe law. Punishment [for royal defamation] could be made, but it has to be reasonable,” said lawyer Krisadang Nutcharut, who represents the protesters and has a history of taking on lese majeste cases.

The use of the lese majeste law had slowed prior to 2020, which Prayut has said was due to the “mercy” of the king.

Colloquially referred to as “112” for its section number in the penal code, it is intended to protect Thailand’s ultra-powerful royal family from defamation.

But critics have long said it has been broadly used to stifle criticism and target political opponents – and its abolition was one of the key demands of the youth movement.

Their frank public discussions about the monarchy – which has long been supported by the military and Thailand’s billionaire class – sent shockwaves through Thai society.

Legal ire from the government has done little to silence them, as protest leaders continue to stage rallies which have recently pivoted to airing grievances on the kingdom’s handling of a spiralling Covid-19 surge.

“There are changes occurring. The youth who grew up in the digital world seem to refuse thoughts and principles that are not scientific-based,” Krisadang told AFP. “This is a testament that Section 112 is not compatible with the modern world.”

In 2017, UN special rapporteur David Kaye urged the regime to stop section 112 prosecutions, saying such laws “have no place in a democratic country”.

MOST VIEWED

  • WHO: Covid in Cambodia goes into new phase

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia said that Cambodia has reached a new phase of the pandemic with “decreasing case numbers, high vaccination coverage and a more transmissible circulating variant threatening a hidden surge”. In a press release on September 6, the WHO said that

  • 'Pursue your goals, reach out to me': Young diplomat tapped as envoy to South Korea

    Chring Botum Rangsay was a secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation before being designated as the new Cambodian ambassador to South Korea. According to her official CV published on the foreign ministry’s website, she started her first government

  • Purging Sihanoukville’s past with a new masterplan

    Amid illicit activities, haphazard development and abandoned projects, the coastal city of Sihanouk province needs a reset to move forward. A new masterplan might be the answer to shake off its seemingly mucky image to become the Shenzhen of the south Gun toting, shootouts, police

  • International air visitor arrivals dip 93%

    The number of foreign tourists entering Cambodia through the Kingdom’s three international airports witnessed a sharp 92.5 per cent year-on-year decline in the first seven months of this year, according to the Ministry of Tourism. The airports handled 51,729 international tourists in the January-July period versus

  • School reopening ‘offers model for other sectors’

    World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Cambodia Li Ailan said school reopening process should be used as a role model for reopening other sectors currently mothballed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Li strongly supports the government’s decision to reopen schools, saying it is a decision

  • Covid jab drive for 6-11 age group to begin Sept 17

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has permitted Covid-19 vaccinations for over 1.8 million children aged 6-11 across the country from September 17 in order for them to return to school after a long hiatus. Hun Sen also hinted that vaccinations for the 3-6 age group will follow in