Jan 31 - A group of protesters calling themselves the Network for Protection of the Monarchy gathered in front of the office of the European Union Delegation to Thailand on Thursday morning, saying that they want to "lecture" the EU, explaining that the status of the Thai monarchy is special and not like that in European countries.
'Section 112 of the Criminal Code is a matter of national sovereignty. Foreigners who not really know about Thai culture, stay out of it.
Oppose EU interference in the Thai judicial process.'
The European Union Delegation to Thailand last week issued a statemen
t saying it was "deeply concerned" about the 10-year verdict of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a prominent labour activist and magazine editor who was sentenced last week for printing in his magazine two articles deemed lèse majesté.
Thanabodee Warunsee, coordinator of the network, said the European Union might understand that Somyot has contributed to labour rights, but good causes must be separated from bad causes, and the Thai monarchy is uniquely different from monarchies in Europe, and the EU might not understand this correctly.
"I hope that after explaining this to the EU, they will understand and repent. It would be good for the EU to issue another statement to express its regret," he said.
While waiting for the representative from EU delegation to receive the complaint letter, a protester said through a speakerphone that the EU would do better to solve the Rohingya issue rather than the lèse majesté law, and if it touches upon amending the law, the group might start a campaign to boycott EU products.
The protest, lasting about two hours, ended around 11.30 after a representative from the EU delegation came down to receive the letter.
H.E David Lipman, Head of EU Delegation to Thaiand, talked to Prachatai earlier about the protest, saying that it was a good thing that the group can exercise freedom of expression, but the EU statement was merely to “interact” with Thailand based on human rights principles, not “interfering” as the group claimed.
“There is no doubt that the use of freedom of speech can be interpreted, but we consider this from general views of human rights,” he said. “I come from a country, the United Kingdom, where we have a Queen that we love very dearly, and people are still allowed to criticize the monarchy in a respectful way and not sent to prison for long terms.”
The conviction of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk has prompted statements of concern from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the EU, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as well as labour rights organizations like the Clean Clothes Campaign and IndustriALL Global Union.
The Committee to Protect Journalists and, recently, the International Federation of Journalists also called for the release of Somyot and reform of the lèse majesté law, as it was seen as an obstruction to exercising journalists’ rights.
"The sentence handed down by the Court speaks more to curtailing critical reporting in Thailand than to protecting the monarch," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President.
Chavarong Limpatthamapanee, President of the Thai Journalists Association, said that the association supports and protects freedom of expression of the media, but expression must be under Thai law.
Asked about the stance of the TJA on Somyot’s sentence, he said the association is still debating what constitutes media and what does not according to its definition.
“What we protect is media that reports objectively, but if any media tries to have a political agenda for certain political groups, then we cannot protect them,” he said.