A graffiti painted during the 31 October protest. (File photo)

How political parties stand on the lèse majesté law

When protesters and members of the public again raised the issue of amending the lèse majesté law in November, political parties and affiliated think tanks responded in different ways.

  • Thaksin Shinawatra suggested we should end the ‘drama’ about the issue, remarking that the law itself has never been a problem, but those in the judicial system are the problem.
  • Prawit Wongsuwan says PPRP is definitely against any amendment.
  • The Democrats have never thought of amending Section 112.
  • The royalist Thai Pakdee Party supports the strict enforcement of Sections 112 and 116.
  • The KLA Party insists on standing against amending Section 112.
  • Action Coalition for Thailand opposes amendment.
  • Move Forward is pushing ahead with an amendment to Section 112.
  • Anutin confirms that Bhumjaithai is not involved in Section 112 amendment
  • The Commoners Party backs abolition as the first step paving the way to reform of the monarchy.
  • The CARE group joins the movement to amend Sections 112 and 116.
  • Wissanu says that Section 112 can be amended like any other law.

At the 31 October protest at the Ratchaprasong intersection, Citizens for the Abolition of 112 collected signatures supporting abolition of the royal defamation law, or Section 112, and made clear their demands for political and monarchy reform. In response, various political parties and groups came out to show their position towards royal defamation in the Kingdom, long a taboo subject for discussion.

A banner states "Reform is not equal to treason".

Right after the demonstration, Chaikasem Nitisiri, head of political strategy and direction for the Pheu Thai Party, declared they were ready to propose amendments to Sections 112 and 116 at the next parliamentary sitting. This was followed by the Move Forward Party stating that they would push ahead with the petition to gain as many signatures as possible and apply their knowledge and experience in constitutional reform to support the campaign.  

Chaikasem said that the authority to amend laws belongs to parliament acting as citizen’s representatives in accordance with the democratic process. The Pheu Thai Party's stance is to release prisoners of conscience and allow no further cases, which will be a starting point for restoring trust in the Thai judicial system. However, whether the laws will be amended and what the details will be depends on the authority of parliament.

But on 2 November, Thaksin Shinawatra, former Prime Minister and brother of Yingluck Shinawatra, former Pheu Thai leader and Prime Minister, posted on Facebook that it had been a couple of days since he had heard of the ‘drama’ about Section 112 from both the supporters and opponents of amendment or abolition. He gave his opinion, as a former Prime Minister who was consulted several times about Section 112.  

“Let me relate my experience. Section 112 came into law a long time ago in the time of Field Marshal Sarit (Thanarat), around 1957. The law itself has never been a problem. But the problem today comes from improper use because individuals in the judicial system might become afraid or maybe wish to show their loyalty by not upholding the rule of law and so they abuse their power in the hope of some benefit, especially the government in the hope of political benefit. This causes great dissatisfaction. The more this Section is enforced, the more displeasure its causes. In the past, the Royal Thai Police had a committee to consider whether complaints really involve intentional violation of Section 112 or not. And the number of cases was small, and everything followed the due process of law.” Thaksin posted.

So according to Thaksin the problem was limited, but at present, a lot of problems have happened. The Section is frequently used, and people get angry and accuse each other. Thaksin has already said that the government should negotiate with youths who have different ideas and thoughts these days. We then find a solution to live peacefully between people of different ages. If we want to restart where we went wrong, by adjusting the procedure for prosecutions of Section 112 cases, we have to go back to a system of rules as in the past. No slanders or accusations, allow alleged offenders bail and maintain the criminal justice system, and talk to the young people to gain mutual understanding. To live together, we need to have rules. Rules that are acceptable to all sides are important.

The former PM posted again that before anyone says they want to abolish Section 112 because of anger or for some without having a reason or if they are strongly against abolition, which is clearly a Yes or No issue, negotiation and setting rules would be better. These days, the country seems to have no organization, no administration. There seems to be only law and order, which goes against the principle of bringing society together in unity.

“I suggest that before anyone says the we should or shouldn’t amend Section 112, we should think back that the law itself has never been a problem, but the problem is in fact the people in the judicial system and the people who use this issue to create divisions in society. If there are proper rules and dialogue between those with different points of view, it would be a great starting point and lead to maintaining a just law, and no one would be troubled. But today, I want to emphasize again that the country lacks administration and has chosen to use only law and order. I want both sides to end the drama, take a deep breath and start again from the beginning as I have already proposed, for love, to show loyalty in the correct way, and not to have royalty condemned without knowing,” Thaksin said in the post.

Prawit says PPRP is definitely against any amendment

On 2 November, Matichon Online reported Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Deputy Prime Minister, taking a clear stance on the proposed amendments to Sections 112 and 116. The institution of the monarchy must be retained because it built the country.

PPRP is definitely against amendment, but would accept the ideas of all citizens and will help the people to live in plenty and peacefully together, said Gen Prawit.

The Democrats have never thought of amending Section 112.

On 1 November, Matichon Online interviewed Democrat Party leader Jurin Laksanawisit, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce, on the move to abolish Section 112. Speaking for the Democrat Party, Jurin has clearly reaffirmed many times that the party consistently supports a constitutional monarchy. This position is clear, and nothing has changed. However, the Constitution has to be changed in order to be more democratic. On Section 112, the party has never given any thought to amending it. The party always said this because it thinks the constitutional monarchy is most appropriate for our country.

The royalist Thai Pakdee Party supports the strict enforcement of Sections 112 and 116.

Post Today reported that the Thai Pakdee Party issued a statement supporting strict enforcement of Sections 112 and 116, in accordance with the judicial system.

The KLA Party insists on standing against amendment of Section 112.

On 1 November, Matichon Online reported that Attawit Suwanpakdee, the party Secretary-General, opposed the abolition of Section 112, saying that it would raise the country’s conflict as defamation of royalty and conflict will occur more often, leading to another political crisis that may pave way for political intervention or a coup.

Action Coalition for Thailand opposes the amendment.

Khaosod Online reported that Khetrat Laothamatas, a party-list MP and spokesperson of the Action Coalition for Thailand party, posted messages opposing amendment of Section 112, questioning whether it is an acceptable choice for the public to amend a law which has been part of society for a long time.

Move Forward pushes ahead with an amendment to Section 112.

Chaitawat Tulathon, Secretary-General of the Move Forward Party, revealed on 2 November that the MFP has proposed an amendment to Section 112 but it has been held up by a procedural problem. The Secretariat of the House of Representatives wanted the MFP to consider whether the bill contradicts Section 6 of the Constitution that grants the monarch ‘inviolable’ status. The Party has already reconsidered the bill and has affirmed that the bill does not contravene the Constitution. A statement will be made and a motion submitted to parliament.

Anutin confirms his stance, Bhumjaithai not involved in Section 112 amendment

Anutin Charnvirakul, Deputy PM and Minister of Public Health, as party leader, insisted on Bhumjaithai’s stance against Section 112 amendment.

On 3 November, Anutin spoke at parliament after the Pheu Thai Party declared its support for amending Section 112. He has said since the party was founded that Section 112 cannot be changed. Therefore, there would not be any amendments coming from the Bhumjaithai Party. He himself would support nothing that would weaken or bring down Section 112.

The Commoners Party backs abolition as the first step paving the way to reform of the monarchy.

Lertsak Kamkongsak, leader of the Commoners Party, released a statement that abolition of Section 112 is seen as the first concrete step to reform of the royal institution on other issues.

The CARE group joins the movement to amend Sections 112, 116.

Creative Action for Revival & People Empowerment (CARE), a think-tank related to the Pheu Thai Party, publicly joined the call for the amendment of Sections 112 and 116 and other laws that restrict freedom and suppress citizens.

“To protect innocent people from the abuse of power by state officials, to ensure the release and return of justice to prisoners of conscience, to disable the government’s use of the power and force that they have to oppress innocent citizens, and to make Thailand a country with no more prisoners of conscience, this is the first step to restoring trust in Thailand’s judicial system,” the CARE group said.

Wissanu says that Section 112 can be amended like any other law

Khaosod Online interviewed Wissanu Krea-ngam, Deputy Prime Minister, on the move to amend Sections 112 and 116. He said the process would be similar to how other laws are amended. As the amendments have no financial implications, they do not need to be considered by the government before being submitted to parliament. It is the right of MPs to make a decision.

Source: 
prachatai.com/journal/2021/11/95760

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