Geneva, 03.10.2011: Thailand’s human rights record will be reviewed for the first time on 05 October 2011, at the twelfth session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group. ARTICLE 19 urges Thailand to repeal the lèse-majesté law - which is increasingly being used to silence critical voices - and for the Computer Crimes Act to be amended to respect the right to freedom of expression.
“The upcoming UPR is an opportunity for the United Nations Human Rights Council member states to put pressure on Thailand to seriously address and redress the severe violation of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of information in the country,” said Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director ARTICLE 19.
In ARTICLE 19’s submission to the UN Human Rights Council ahead of Thailand’s UPR, the organisation raised the following key areas of concern:
1. use of lèse-majesté and defamation laws to silence critics,
2. restrictions on the right to freedom of expression on the internet,
3. use of emergency powers to suppress freedom of expression,
4. control of the media by the government and the military,
5. failure of the government to effectively implement the Official Information Act.
Thai journalists tend to exercise self-censorship on issues regarding the military, monarchy and the judiciary. This has been widely attributed to the control of media by powerful players of the Thai political backstage. Since the military coup in 2006, there has been a sharp increase in lèse-majesté charges, which provides special protection for the royalty and carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment.
Government statistics are unclear on how many individuals have been indicted on these charges, with figures ranging from 37 cases to 478 cases in 2010 depending on the particular government office. A number of lèse-majesté cases are currently on trial, including Amphon Tangnoppakul for allegedly sending messages offensive to the monarchy to the Prime Minister and editor of independent news website Prachatai Chiranuch Premchaiporn for anonymous lèse-majesté comments posted on her website.
In 2010, the government blocked 75,000 websites often using emergency powers and mostly for lèse-majesté content. Since the lifting of the ‘emergency,’ not a single website has been unblocked.
“The right to freedom of expression has fallen foul to the political turmoil that has plagued Thailand in the last five years. Although the recent election has brought forth a new government, there is no sign of relenting in the use of draconian measures such as the lèse-majesté law and Computer Crime Act to silence critical voices,” continued Dr Callamard.
ARTICLE 19 calls on the Thai government to cease all forms of censorship and review all laws undermining freedom of expression for compliance to the Thai Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Thailand is a party.