Thai government defends lèse majesté law against criticism from the UNHCR

Anucha Burapachaisri / Photo from www.thainews.prd.go.th/

The Thai government has hit back at the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), claiming that the country’s lèse majesté law (Section 112 of the Criminal Code) does not restrict the rights and liberties of the Thai people, but protects the rights and reputation of the Thai Monarchy, which is in line with laws in some other countries used to protect their heads of state.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri also defended the use of the lèse majesté law against a 16-year old student, saying that the youth was charged in the Juvenile and Family Court which freed the youth on bail, against the wishes of the police.

The Thai government was reacting to the UNHCR’s statement today, expressing deep concern over the invocation of Section 112 against anti-establishment protesters, in particular the 16-year old.

“We are deeply troubled by the move by Thai authorities to charge at least 35 protesters in recent weeks, including a 16-year old student protester, under Article 112 – the lèse majesté provision of Thailand’s criminal code. The offence carries sentences of between three and 15 years’ imprisonment for defaming, insulting or threatening the country’s royal family. We are particularly alarmed that the 16-year-old protester was yesterday presented by police to the Juvenile Court with a request for a detention order. The Court denied the detention order and granted conditional bail.

The statement also expressed concern that other serious criminal charges are being filed against protesters engaged in peaceful protests in recent months, including charges of sedition and offences under the Computer Crime Act. Again, these charges have been filed against a minor, among others.

In the statement, the UNHCR urged the Thai government to stop the repeated use of such serious criminal charges against individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

It also called on the Thai government to amend the lèse majesté law and bring it into line with Article 19 of the ICCPR on the right to freedom of expression.

Anucha maintained that the Thai government does not block or ban free expression or public assembly, so long as it does not affect the rights and liberties of the other people or threaten public order and national security.

He said that the Thai government is supportive of free expression which is creative, not aggressive or insulting to other people or which provokes hatred.

He also defended the police handling of protests, to ensure safety for the protesters and for avoiding the use of violence against the protesters.

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