Royalist academic said Thailand’s lèse majesté law needs to be more specific

A protester spray paints a message with reference to article 112, Thailand’s lese majeste royal defamation law, during a demonstration in Bangkok on November 14, 2021, after a Thai court ruled that speeches by protest leaders calling for royal reforms amounted to a bid to overthrow the country’s monarchy. (Photo by Jack TAYLOR / AFP)

Thailand needs to have a lèse majesté law for national security. It acts as a defamation law for the royal family. The existing version is, however, too short and needs to be amended to make it more descriptive, specific and clear, said Dr. Arnond Sakworawich, a staunch supporter of the royal family.

Dr. Arnond has been very open about his stance on the Thai Monarchy. He is a popular academic among royalists and he has been very outspoken about the country’s controversial lèse majesté legislation, known as Section 112 of the Penal Code.

“These disputable issues have to be clarified comprehensively, so people will not find loopholes in this law. So, in my opinion, article 112 should be 3-pages long, detailing interpretation, intention and defining wrongdoing. Defamation and libel should also be separated from malicious threats. It has to be meticulous so that there will not be an issue when interpreting the law,” Dr. Arnond explained.

There have been a number of cases in which Section 112 has been used as a political tool, getting people charged and dragging them into court. Even if the accused didn’t actually violate the law, it can take years to be acquitted.

Dr. Arnond admits that the law has been used with ill intention. “The problem arose due to people who have state power, in most of the cases, wanting to get rid of whoever they see as political opponents. Ask if there is such a thing? Yes, there is.”

He said there have been people who have been charged when they commit an unintentional breach, but he thinks, presently, there are a lot of actual wrongdoers.

Asst. Prof. Dr. Arnond Sakworawich, National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA).

Not long ago, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told the public that the King does not want the law to be enforced. Dr. Arnond said that such a claim itself is wrong because, under a constitutional monarchy, the King cannot issue such an order. He said that he thinks it is the prime minister who has misinformed the public.

“But, because there really are cases of persecution, he (the King) does not want the law to be used repetitiously and unjustly.”

Dr. Arnond said that, while he totally supports the Thai monarchy and sees that the institution has changed over time and adapted to the modern world, the law definitely needs to be amended. It is a protection tool for the royal family.

He said he is not sure whether anyone will agree with him on the amendments to the law he proposes. “Make it clear, comprehensive and without much need for interpretation.”

The law has been the subject of much conversation. There is support for its amendment, to bring it up to date, to leave it as it is or to repeal it altogether. There are, however, also those who refuse to join the conversation at all, partly because there is a chance that they might be charged with an offense under that very law.

by Tulip Naksompop Blauw


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