Thai Foreign Ministry refutes UN criticism of lèse majesté law

After criticism by the UN over the use of the notorious lèse majesté law, the Thai Foreign Ministry has claimed that enforcement of this law does not violate human rights.

On 7 February 2017, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) published a statement on its website to justify the use of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.

The statement was published after the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye, on the same day called on the Thai authorities to stop using lèse majesté provisions as a political tool to stifle critical speech.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry’s statement claimed that Thailand respected freedom of expression as long as this freedom was not exercised in violation of the law and did not affect national security or public morale.

“The enforcement of Article 112 does not contravene international laws on human rights,” stated the MFA.

The Ministry added that the use of lèse majesté is appropriate for protecting the revered Thai Monarchy, which has been serving the nation as a force for unity and stability for the last 700 years.

With regard to the case of Jatuphat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa, a law student and key member of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) accused under Article 112, the MFA said that the government could not intervene in court proceedings in the case.

According to the UN Special Rapporteur, “the lèse majesté provision of the Thai Criminal Code is incompatible with international human rights law.”

“Public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority, may be subject to criticism, and the fact that some forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify restrictions or penalties,” Kaye underlined.

The UN expert’s call came as Jatuphat awaits trial for defaming the crown. He is the first person since King Vajiralongkorn acceded to the throne on 1 December 2016 to be charged with lèse majesté for sharing on his Facebook account a controversial biography of King Vajiralongkorn published by the BBC Thai.

Shortly after he was arrested for lèse majesté on 3 December 2016, the court released him on bail. However, his bail was revoked on 22 December after he posted a satirical message mocking authorities on his Facebook account.

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