Thai junta presses lèse majesté charge against ex-PM Thaksin

Controversial ex-Prime Minister Pol Lt Col Thaksin Shinawatra is to be charged with defaming the monarchy and stripped of his police rank.

According to the Thai News Agency, Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, the Thai army chief and Deputy Defence Minister, ordered Maj Gen Sarayuth Klinmahom, Director of Judge Advocate General’s Office of the Royal Thai Army, to press charges under Article 112 of the Criminal Crime Code, aka the lèse majesté law, and Articles 326 and 328 against former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted out by the 2006 coup d’état, for defaming the monarchy in an interview.

The order was passed on to Maj Gen Sarayuth on Tuesday.

The Thai authorities accuse Thaksin of defaming the monarchy when he spoke at the Asian Leadership Conference in Seoul, South Korea, last week and gave an interview to Chosun Ilbo Media, the South Korean media group which organised the conference.

The Royal Thai Police alleged that parts of the interview harmed national security and dignity, but did not give further details of the allegation, reported the Bangkok Post.

In the interview, Thaksin made ambiguous statements about certain groups of people being behind the 2014 coup d’état.     

According to Article 112, persons who defame, insult, or threaten the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent shall face 3-15 years imprisonment, while Articles 326 and 328 of the Criminal Crime Code carry fines of no more than 20,000 baht (about 600 USD) and up to two years imprisonment for people convicted of criminal defamation.

In addition, the authorities also accused Thaksin of breaking Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act, which stipulates that people who import illegal computer content shall face up to five years in jail or a 100,000 baht fine (about 3,000 USD) or both.

Royal Thai Police chief Pol Gen Somyot Pumpanmuang also issued an order on 1 May to the relevant authorities to strip Thaksin of his rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Thai Police, claiming that he is a political fugitive after nine years of living in self-imposed exile, Matichon Online reported.    

Earlier this week, the Foreign Ministry revoked Thaksin’s Thai passports. However, the ex-PM also possesses Montenegrin and Nicaraguan passports.