Proposed amendments to lèse majesté law

On 27 Mar, a group of Thammasat law lecturers, called Nitirassadorn or People’s Law, proposed a set of amendments to Article 112 of the Criminal Code in a public forum which drew an audience of hundreds.

The lèse majesté law is not appropriate in terms of the structure of its provisions, its penalties and its enforcement, and it does not exempt bona fide criticisms or comments made for the sake of the constitution and democracy.  Also, the law is currently being exploited politically, the group said.

Article 112 should be abolished, the group said, because the article is illegitimate in the first place as it originated from an order of the junta which seized power in 1976 – the Council for Democratic Reform’s order No 41 announced on 21 Oct 1976.  This will allow new provisions to be written for the protection of the monarchy and placed in another section of the law instead of the current one which relates to national security.

The group argued that any offence deemed to defame, insult or threaten the King, the Queen, the Heir Apparent and the Regent in a ‘Democracy with the King as Head of State under the Constitution’ was not so severe that it would affect the existence, integrity and security of the Kingdom.

They said that protection of the King from lèse majesté should be separated from that of the Queen, the Heir Apparent and the Regent, given that different protections were accorded to them in other criminal offences. [See Articles 107-110 of the Criminal Code here]

They proposed that the penalty for the offence of defaming, insulting or threatening the King be imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of up to 50,000 baht, or both, and for the same offence against the Queen, the Heir Apparent and the Regent be imprisonment of up to two years or a fine of up to 30,000 baht, or both. 

A minimum penalty for lèse majesté, which is currently three years’ imprisonment, should not be set, as, they said, there was none even in the time of the Absolute Monarchy.

They proposed new provisions to exempt from punishment those who made bona fide criticisms or comments for the benefit of the constitution and ‘Democracy with the King as Head of State under the Constitution’, or for academic or public interest, and for those whose statements could be proved to be true and beneficial to the public interest.

They also proposed that the Office of His Majesty's Principal Private Secretary be the sole party to file any complaints on lèse majesté offences to prevent the law from being politically abused.

[See the original proposal in Thai here.]



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