Thailand: Unprecedented number of lèse-majesté detentions call for urgent reform of Article 112

Paris, Bangkok, 20 May 2015: In the first 12 months under the rule of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), Thailand experienced an unprecedented number of lèse-majesté detentions, FIDH and its member organization Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) said today.
 
“Unless the NCPO promotes an urgent reform of Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, Thai jails will be increasingly populated by individuals who have merely exercised their fundamental rights to freedom of opinion and expression,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.
 
According to research conducted by FIDH, since the junta seized power on 22 May 2014, at least 47 individuals have been detained under the draconian Article 112 of the Criminal Code. [1] Eighteen people have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to 50 years, for a combined total of 159 years - an average of eight years and eight months each. In most cases, defendants saw their sentences halved because they pleaded guilty to the charges.
 
Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code states that “whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne or the Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years.”
 
Prosecutions under Article 112 are likely to continue at a steady pace in the coming months. On 25 April 2015, police said that there were 204 active lèse-majesté cases, of which 128 were under investigation. Authorities are also set to target lèse-majesté suspects beyond Thailand’s national borders. On 21 March 2015, junta-appointed Minister of Justice Gen Paiboon Koomchaya said the military-backed government would seek the extradition of 30 Thais living in exile who have been charged under Article 112.
 
FIDH and UCL urge the authorities to end lèse-majesté prosecutions of individuals who exercise their fundamental rights to freedom of opinion and expression. The two organizations also urge the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all individuals imprisoned under Article 112 for having exercised their rights to freedom of opinion and expression.
 
“Protection of the monarchy must not impinge on the rights of individuals to freedom of opinion and expression. It’s time for the NCPO to heed the numerous UN recommendations for reform and bring Article 112 in line with international law,” urged UCL Chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn.
 
Various UN human rights bodies have repeatedly called on Thailand to amend Article 112 and ensure that it complies with the country’s obligations under international human rights treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party. In the latest statement by a UN official, on 1 April 2015, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye expressed concern over the increasing arrests and detentions under Article 112 and called for an end to the criminalization of dissenting opinions.