Academics appeal to House Speaker on amendment to lèse majesté law

The Campaign Committee for the Amendment of Article 112 is to appeal to the House Speaker, Somsak Kiatsuranont, to review his decision to reject parliamentary consideration of the draft amendment to the lèse majesté law. 

The Campaign Committee, led by Thammasat Professor Yukti Mukdawijitra and writer Wad Rawee, held a press conference at the October 14 Memorial on Sunday 17 February calling for the House Speaker to reconsider his decision, since Article 112 directly violates the rights to freedom of expression and to a fair trial.

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Wad Rawee, left, and Yukti Mukdawijitra, right

“If a law protects the monarchy, it doesn’t mean that it’s not relevant to the rights and freedoms of the people. This clearly affects them, especially the unusually severe punishment,” said Yukti.

Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code states that whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, Heir-Apparent or Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.

In October, the Speaker of the House of Representatives rejected a petition with 30,383 signatures which proposed a draft amendment of Article 112, on the grounds that the draft doesn’t belong to the Chapter in the Constitution regarding the rights and liberties of the people, therefore citizens cannot propose amendments to the law.

The Speaker also stated that since Article 112 concerns the Monarchy, it is relevant to Article 8 in the constitution, which stipulates that the Monarchy is highly revered and inviolable.

But the group said the proposed amendment, drafted by the Nitirat group of Thammasat law academics, did not intend to allow any person to insult the king recklessly, but only to bring the monarchy in harmony with democratic principles.

The draft amendment, submitted to parliament for consideration in May last year, proposed that the punishment for lèse majesté should be reduced to a maximum of three years imprisonment, with no minimum sentence.

It also suggested that if the statement is expressed with good intent and in the public interest, it should be exempt from guilt. Also, the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary should be the only agency which can press charges, preventing anyone from using the law as a political tool.

If the House Speaker still refuses parliamentary consideration of the draft amendment, the Campaign Committee said the Speaker should give the group an opportunity to debate the draft, in accordance with Article 30 of the Administrative Procedures Act 2539.

The appeal letter was signed by six representatives who proposed the amendment draft, including Prof Emeritus Charnvit Kasetsiri, Prof Dr. Nidhi Eoseewong, Assoc Prof Dr. Puangthong Pawakapan, Assoc Prof Dr. Worachet Pakeerut, Asst Prof Dr. Yukti Mukdawijitra and Mr. Rawee Siri-issaranand (Wad Rawee).

Jon Ungphakorn, a member of the Sub-committee on Civil and Political Rights of the National Human Rights Commission, said in a seminar held by the European Union last month that, after setting up a working group to study the lèse majesté law, the Sub-committee would propose amending Article 112 by reducing the punishment to a maximum of seven years, with no minimum, and statements expressed with good intent and in the public interest would be exempt from guilt.

He said that the report recommending the amendment is now waiting for approval by the Commission, for subsequent publication.

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