Topic: Thailand

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🔗 Lèse-Majesté in Thailand

🔗 Law 🔗 Thailand

In Thailand, lèse-majesté is a crime according to Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. It is illegal to defame, insult, or threaten the monarch of Thailand (king, queen, heir-apparent, heir-presumptive, or regent). Modern Thai lèse-majesté law has been on the statute books since 1908. Thailand is the only constitutional monarchy to have strengthened its lèse-majesté law since World War II. With penalties ranging from three to fifteen years imprisonment for each count, it has been described as the "world's harshest lèse majesté law" and "possibly the strictest criminal-defamation law anywhere". Its enforcement has been described as being "in the interest of the palace".: 134 

The law has criminalised acts of insult since 1957. There is substantial room for interpretation, which causes controversy. Broad interpretation of the law reflects the inviolable status of the king, resembling feudal or absolute monarchs. Thailand's Supreme Court decided the law also applies to prior monarchs. Criticism of any privy council member has raised the question whether lèse-majestÊ applies by association. Even attempting to commit lèse-majestÊ, making sarcastic comments about the King's pet, and failure to rebuke an offense have been prosecuted as lèse-majestÊ.

Anyone can file a lèse-majestÊ complaint, and the police formally investigate all of them. Details of the charges are rarely made public. A Section 112 defendant meets with official obstruction throughout the case. There are months-long pretrial detentions, and courts routinely deny bail to those charged. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined that the pretrial detention of an alleged lèse-majestÊ offender violated international human rights law. The courts seem not to recognise the principle of granting defendants the benefit of the doubt. Judges have said accusers did not have to prove the factuality of the alleged lèse-majestÊ material but only claim it is defamatory. Pleading guilty, then asking for a royal pardon, is seen as the quickest route to freedom for any accused.

Since the 1976 coup, coup makers have regularly cited a surge of alleged lèse-majestÊ charges as a reason for overthrowing elected governments. This was cited as one of the major reasons for the 2006 coup and that of 2014. In 2006 and 2007, there were notable changes in the trend. Those targeted by lèse-majestÊ complaints included more average citizens who were given longer jail sentences. Human rights groups condemned its use as a political weapon and a means to restrict freedom. The 2014 junta government granted authority to army courts to prosecute lèse-majestÊ, which has usually resulted in secret trials and harsh sentences. Prior to the law's revival in 2020, for three years the Thai government often invoked other laws, such as the Computer Crimes Act and sedition laws, to deal with perceived damages and insults to the monarchy. The longest recorded sentence was in 2021: 87 years imprisonment, reduced to 43 years because the defendant pleaded guilty. In 2023, the Supreme Court ordered a female politician from the Move Forward Party to be banned from politics for life due to her alleged lèse-majestÊ posts on social media.

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