UN decries 'harsh' Thai sentences for royal slurs | Inquirer News

UN decries ‘harsh’ Thai sentences for royal slurs

/ 04:56 PM August 20, 2014

Thai army soldiers sitting in a jeep in front of the Royal Thai Police headquarters, adorned with a portrait of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (R), May 20, 2014

The United Nations’ human rights office has voiced alarm at recent arrests and jail sentences for insulting Thailand’s monarchy, warning of “chilling effects” on freedom of expression under the junta.

Since the army seized power from an elected government in May, at least 13 new royal defamation cases have been opened for investigation and other allegations have been revived, spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said.


“We are seriously concerned about the prosecution and harsh sentencing of individuals in Thailand under the country’s lese majeste law,” she said in a statement issued in Geneva on Tuesday.


“Such measures are adding to the larger pattern of increasing restrictions on freedom of expression in Thailand.”

Last week two activists were charged with breaching the strict royal insult laws during a university play in October 2013 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of a student-led uprising.

The UN said the play depicted a fictional monarch who was manipulated by his adviser.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, is revered by many Thais and protected by tough defamation laws that carry a maximum jail sentence of 15 years for each conviction.

A 28-year-old musician was recently sentenced to 15 years in jail after he was found guilty of posting insulting messages about the monarchy on Facebook.

Earlier this month, a taxi driver was jailed for two years and six months for a conversation he had with a passenger that was deemed offensive to the monarchy, the UN noted.


“The threat of the use of the lese majeste laws adds to the chilling effects on freedom of expression observed in Thailand after the coup, and risks curbing critical debate on issues of public interest,” Shamdasani said.

Critics say the royal slur legislation has been politicized, noting that many of those charged in recent years were linked to the “Red Shirts” protest movement, which is broadly supportive of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin clashed with the royalist establishment before his overthrow in a coup in 2006.

His younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra was ousted as prime minister in a controversial court decision in May this year, shortly before the army chief seized power in a bloodless coup.

The junta has moved to suppress any public protests against the military takeover.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the arrests of the two activists, 10 months after the play was staged, suggested that the Thai junta was sending a “political message”.

“The heavy-handed enforcement of lese majeste laws has a devastating impact on freedom of expression in Thailand,” said HRW Asia director Brad Adams.

“A broad-based discussion is urgently needed to amend the laws to ensure that they conform with Thailand’s international human rights obligations.”


Jewish groups accuse UN chief of being one-sided

Thailand gives additional P27M for ‘Yolanda’ rehab

Military coup follows judicial coup in Thailand

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Cybercrime law violates freedom of expression

TAGS: Coup d'état, Thailand, warning

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.