Thai police start lèse majesté probe into US Ambassador’s speech

The Thai police have started a lèse majesté probe into a speech criticising the kingdom’s lèse majesté law made by Glyn T. Davies, the US Ambassador to Thailand.  

According to the Bangkok Post, police from Lumpini Police Station, Bangkok, on Wednesday confirmed that they have started an inquiry into a speech made by the US Ambassador at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) on 25 November 2015.

The police said that the investigation is not yet official and that they are still in the process of gathering information, Bangkok Post reported.

Last Wednesday, Sonthiya Sawasdee, a representative of a political group called the Federation to Monitor the Thai State, filed a complaint against Davies with the Crime Suppression Division (CSD).

Sonthiya urged the police investigate Davies’ criticism of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, and the criminal defamation law in Thailand made at the FCCT.

In his FCCT address, the Ambassador expressed concern over ‘unprecedented’ jail terms for offences under Article 112, saying that no one should be jailed for peacefully expressing their opinion.

“We are also concerned by the lengthy and unprecedented prison sentences handed down by Thai military courts against civilians for violating the lèse majesté law,” said Davies.

Sonthiya added that the organisers of the FCCT event might have had a ‘hidden agenda’ and the police should investigate them as well. The police should proceed if the criticism and behaviour of the organisers of the FCCT event breach the lèse majesté law, Sonthiya urged.  

The criticism triggered a quick response from ultra-royalists. Buddha Isara, an ultra-royalist monk and a key leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), an anti-election protester who roamed the streets of Bangkok prior to the 2014 coup, on 27 November led protesters to the US Embassy in Bangkok, calling for Davies’ removal.

The monk said at the protest “Thailand is not your slave” and shouted “Don’t be rude” in front of the Embassy.

A network of ultra-royalist groups in many provinces also jointed the monk, calling for the removal of the US Ambassador and campaigning in support of the lèse majesté law.

The notorious lèse majesté law or Article 112 of the Criminal Code states "Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, Heir-apparent or Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years."

Since the coup, offences under the lèse majesté law have been judged by military courts, which allow no appeal.   

In August 2015, a Thai military court sentenced a man accused of defaming the Thai monarchy on a social network to 30 years in jail in a trial held in camera. The ruling is the heaviest jail term ever recorded for a lèse majesté case.