Pheu Thai party changes stance, now supports changes to lèse majesté law

Thailand’s opposition Pheu Thai party has openly declared its support for amendment of the country’s strict lèse majesté law (Section 112 of the Criminal Code), and sedition (Section 116), the Computer Crime Act and the Emergency Decree currently in force, by having them submitted to parliament for consideration.

The announcement, by Chaikasem Nitisiri, the party’s political-strategic committee chief, was posted on social media on Sunday, which coincided with a rally held being held in Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong shopping district by pro-democracy and anti-establishment groups to demand the repeal of the lèse majesté law and the release from detention of several protest leaders.

Chaikasem said that the Pheu Thai party is ready to bring the demands of the protest groups and the proposal to amend these laws before parliament to check the performance of the justice system, from police and public prosecutors to judges and corrections officials, to ensure they are in compliance with the spirit of the laws.

He also said that the party would like to check the government’s orders and any regulations issued which could be deemed to be unjust, so prisoners of conscience can be released, which should help to rebuild confidence in Thailand’s justice system.

The Pheu Thai party’s latest move is a far cry from its previous non-committal position on issues relating to the monarchy, such as the lèse majesté law.  

Responding to the protesters’ call for the repeal of the lèse majesté law, Dr. Warong Dechgitvigrom, leader of the Thai Pakdee party and staunch royalist, claimed that the law is not the reason why many things went wrong in this country “but the real culprit is corruption among politicians.”

In his Facebook post today, he said that the monarchy has always been at the receiving end of insults and allegations, adding that those arrested were indicted on lèse majesté charges because they allegedly insulted, defamed, or threatened the monarch.

Only one political party has made a similar move before Pheu Thai. Opposition’s Move Forward submitted the party’s five draft bills, to amend Penal Code §112 to the House of Representatives in February this year. The drafts were rejected by a bill screening committee of the House on the grounds that they may be unconstitutional, citing Chapter 6 of the Constitution which states that the King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated.

The Move Forward party’s draft bills sought to decriminalize acts of lèse majesté, to remove the law from the chapter regarding national security and to place it with a group of offences related to the honour of the King, the Queen, heir apparent and the Regent.

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