Parliament petitioned for repeal of Section 112

Activists and people affected by the royal defamation law, or Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, went to parliament yesterday (27 October) to submit a petition to the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights for the repeal of Section 112.

CCPC representatives and members of the public holding pieces of paper with messages such as "Long live the pe_ple," "Prayut is a danger to the nation, but 112 could be a danger to you," and "The next person accused with 112 could be you". 

The Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution (CCPC) said that there has recently been a sharp rise in the number of people facing royal defamation charges for speaking out about the monarchy, and in many cases, people are being charged even though they only speak about the monarchy as an institution and not a specific member of the royal family, which does not constitute an offence under Section 112. The law also allows anyone to file a complaint under Section 112, and many file complaints in the area where they live, usually far away from the residence of those against whom the complaint is being filed. Complaints may also be filed with the intention of harassing those who are exercising their freedom of expression.

The CCPC also said that the text of the law is unclear and can be widely interpreted, while it is strictly enforced. In many cases, officials did not explain how a defendant’s action constituted an insult or a threat, often stating that their action damages the King and the monarchy, even though the law does not apply to the monarchy as an institution.

The CCPC therefore petitioned the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights to summon involved inquiry officers and investigate the issues and effects of enforcing Section 112 in order to amend or repeal this law.

Somyot Pruksakasemsuk speaking in front of parliament

Activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, who was previously imprisoned for 7 years on a royal defamation charge and is currently out on bail on another count of the same charge with the condition that he does not damage the monarchy, said that the royal defamation law has been used to restrict freedom of expression, which is a fundamental freedom in a democracy.

He also said that, since the monarchy uses taxpayer’s money and is listed as a public organization by the constitution, people should be able to express their opinions and criticism of the monarchy. He also noted how those charged with royal defamation are often denied the right to bail. 

Chavalit Witchayasut (second from right) and Rangsiman Rome (first from right) receiving the petition

The petition was received by Pheu Thai MP Chavalit Witchayasut and Move Forward Party MP and former activist Rangsiman Rome, representing the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights.

Rangsiman said that this is not the first complaint parliament has received about Section 112, and added that the Committee had already noted that there are issues with the judicial process when it comes to a royal defamation charge.  He noted that many of the accused are denied the right to bail, and that the law is often broadly interpreted and over-enforced. He said that the Committee will not neglect these issues and will be discussing them at next week’s committee meeting.

Thalufah's performance (Photo by Natthaphon Panudomlak)

The activist group Thalufah also joined the gathering and staged a performance in front of the parliament. 12 members of the group painted themselves red and crawled up the slope towards parliament in a symbolic act of protest to demand the repeal of Section 112.

Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code states that defaming, insulting, or threatening “the King, the Queen, the Heir apparent, or the Regent” is punishable with 3 – 15 years of imprisonment. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), at least 154 are facing royal defamation charges for political expression since November 2020, after Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha announced that every law would be used against the pro-democracy protesters following a protest in front of the Royal Thai Police HQ on 18 November.

Several protest leaders are also facing multiple counts of the charge, including Parit Chiwarak, who is facing 21 counts; Anon Nampa, 14 counts; Panupong Jadnok, 9 counts; Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, 8 counts; and Benja Apan, 6 counts.

Five people are currently detained pending trial on royal defamation charges: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, and Benja Apan.

Thalufah's performance (Photo by Natthaphon Panudomlak)

The activist network Citizens for the Abolition of 112 announced on 24 October that, starting from this Sunday (31 October), they will be accepting signatures to back a proposal for the repeal of Section 112 and amendment of Thailand’s defamation law so that there is only fines instead of prison sentences. They also called for a demonstration on 31 October at 16.00 at the Ratchaprasong Intersection.

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