Student group calls for repeal of Section 112 in open letter to the King

A group of alumni and current students from the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, has issued an open letter to King Vajiralongkorn, calling for the repeal of Thailand’s lèse majesté law, with which at least 24 people involved with recent protests have been charged in the past two weeks. 

One of the people who went to the Thung Maha Mek Police Station to support those facing Section 112 charges holding up a sign saying "Repeal 112" (Picture from TLHR)

The open letter states that the government appears inclined towards violence when dealing with protesters, and that its use of Section 112 has “adverse effects” on the monarchy. The letter said that Section 112 has been weaponized, and that during trials, suspects were not treated according to universal principles of justice, in which they should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

It also said that the principles behind Section 112 also do not follow the universal principle of justice or of government in a constitutional monarchy, where citizens have the right to criticize and scrutinize “their affiliations, local organisations and national institutions.”

Such criticism, the letter said, is “not necessarily meant to defame, insult, or display malice” towards the monarchy, but is a way for citizens to contribute to the preservation of the monarchy’s honour and integrity.

It then calls for the repeal of Section 112, or at least for the prosecution process to be revised to be just and fair. It also asked that the King issue a statement concerning Section 112, “for the happiness and wellbeing of all your subjects.”

The group, who notes that they are not officially affiliated with the faculty or the university but are an independent group of alumni and students, also provides a summary of the open letter in 12 foreign languages.

Three people involved with the protest at the German Embassy after they went to hear the charges at the Thung Maha Mek Police Station

During the past 2 weeks, at least 24 people involved with recent protests have received a police summons for charges under Section 112, including an alumnus and a current student at the Faculty of Arts, who read out the German version of the protesters’ statement during the protest in front of the German Embassy on 26 October.

Several people who took part in the German Embassy protest have been charged with sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code, in addition to the royal defamation charge. 

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), students, alumni, and faculty members from the Faculty of Arts also went to Thungmahamek Police Station to show their support on 9 December, when Athapol Buapat, Ravisara Eksgool, Suthinee Jangpipatnawakit, and another person, who were involved with the German Embassy protest, went to hear the charges. The group held up signs calling for the repeal of Section 112.

During the questioning process, one of the Faculty of Arts lecturers present raised a question of how the German statement can be seditious when the audience is Thai, adding that there might be differences in how the audience might perceive the content of the statement, and whether the inquiry officer’s Thai translation of the statement in German is reliable. 

The full open letter reads: 

May it please Your Majesty,

With grave concerns for our country and its main institution within this democratic system, we seek Your Majesty's permission to present our views regarding the current situation in Thailand. We humbly implore you to listen to our voices and, should any part of our message give you cause for disquiet, may we entreat Your Majesty, with your boundless mercy and immeasurable patience, to graciously bestow upon us your most benevolent regis veniae.

In the course of the last few months, the Government of Thailand has clearly made no intention to treat the protesters with the justice they deserve; on the contrary, its intention appears to incline to an escalating violent suppression of the protesters. The actions taken by the government and its officials, specifically charging protestors with Article 112 of the Criminal Code, point to three significant issues that unavoidably produce adverse effects upon the monarchy and Your Majesty. Therefore, we deem it timely that we present our thoughts to you, which are as follow.

Firstly, it is impossible to conduct a transparent investigation into the prosecution of cases related to Article 112. The article has most unfortunately been weaponised to persecute the innocent. Moreover, during trial, officials do not treat the suspects or those accused according to universal principles of justice, in which the presumption of innocence must be observed with utmost conscience and fairness. Yet, they are subjected to all kinds of gravely dehumanising treatments. it is in this conviction that we humbly appeal to Your Majesty's mercy to consider the abolition of Article 112, or in the least endeavour to revise its prosecution process to be just and fair.

Secondly, the principles behind Article 112 does [sic] not follow the universal principles of justice or the principles governing countries under a constitutional monarchy, where citizens have the right and freedom to criticise and scrutinise their affiliations, local organisations and national institutions

Such criticism is, by all measures, not necessarily meant to defame, insult, or display malice towards Your Majesty and the monarchy; instead, it is one of the ways in which Thai citizens can contribute to the preservation of the honour and integrity of their most heeded main institutions. Again, we hope that it pleases Your Majesty to let us emphasise that we the Thai people only have pure conscience and intention in our criticism of the monarchy, since our goal is to ensure that the Thal democracy continues to flourish alongside Your Majesty and the royal family.

Lastly, the monarchy and Article 112 have become an important tool for the government and its officials to severely injure and dispose of dissidents. Sadly, this could be the reason why many believe that the monarchy is involved in the actions of the government and its officials. To preserve the integrity of the monarchy so that it remains stable without any single speckle of taint, we feel that it would highly benefit the current situation if Your Majesty were to issue a statement regarding your thoughts and wishes concerning this article, for the happiness and wellbeing of all your subjects. Your profound mercy would make it clear for all to see that you are a just, democratic monarch whose virtues know no bounds.

Your most loyal subjects,

The current students and alumni of the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, who believe in democracy under a constitutional monarchy