In a recent article published on Thailand’s official government website, the department of public relation made a rare contribution to the ongoing debate on lèse majesté laws. The Director-General of the Department of Information and Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, said that the lèse-majesté law is not aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of opinion and expression nor the legitimate exercise of academic freedom, including debates about the monarchy as an institution.

The statement was made in response to media enquiries about recent expressions of concerns by some quarters regarding the use of the lèse-majesté law in Thailand. He said that the lèse-majesté law is part of Thailand’s Criminal Code, which also contains general provisions on defamation and libel of private individuals. The law gives protection to the rights or reputations of the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent, or the Regent in a similar way libel law does for commoners.

As in other democratic societies, he said, Thai people enjoy their constitutional rights, including the rights to freedom of opinion and expression. Differing views are aired widely and there is vibrant debate on all aspects of life. However, those who abuse their rights by spreading hate speeches or distorted information to incite violence and hatred among Thais, as well as towards the monarchical institution, in contravention to the law – whether through the internet, on-line social networks, communication devices or otherwise – have to be held accountable in accordance with the law.

The legal proceedings against Mr. Amphon Tangnoppakul and Mr. Lerpong Wichaikhammat (Joe Gordon) were carried out in accordance with Thai law. Both men have been accorded due process as provided by the Thai Criminal Procedures Code, including the right to fair trial, due opportunity to contest the charges, and assistance from their lawyer. They are also entitled to the right to appeal.

via The Monarchy — The Use of the Lèse-Majesté Law in Thailand.

But this contribution does not reflect the ongoing debate on lèse-majesté law, and in particular its recent and very strict enforcement

Since the 19 September 2006 coup, there has been an exponential expansion in the use of article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act to intimidate dissidents and constrict speech more generally.

king birthday 2554
A picture showing the King of Thailand is shown in a street of Bangkok, to commemorate the King 84th birthday

Article 112 and constriction of speech

While the case of Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn is the case most widely followed internationally, in 2011 there have been a number of other significant sets of charges brought and prosecutions completed. In March 2011, Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for allegedly violating both laws in material posted to

In May 2011 Joe Gordon, a Thai-American man, was charged under both laws for allegedly posting a link to a Thai translation of the English-language book, “The King Never Smiles”, by Paul Handley, on his website. In late November 2011, the trial of Mr. Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, long-time labour rights activist and editor of Voice of Taksin and Red Power magazines, will begin. These are only several of many known, and perhaps many more unknown cases, of people charged under either article 112 and/or the Computer Crimes Act. In most article 112 and Computer Crimes Act cases, the court refuses to grant bail, and so those charged must also endure many months of pre-trial conviction.

With particular concern to how the courts have gone beyond their duty to become a proactive space of the restriction of rights, the Asian Human Rights Commission has also sought to highlight a recent Constitutional Court decision in the case or Ms. Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul.

By placing the emphasis on articles 177 and 178 of the Criminal Procedure Code, rather than the issue of what constitutes national security, the Constitutional Court ruled that trials held behind closed doors are absolutely fine. This is clear, deliberate and explicit step backwards for human rights and justice in Thailand.  In the case of Ms. Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul, it is not only that the court has failed to be a site in which human rights can be secured, but it has become a site in which human rights are actively violated and justice is proactively foreclosed. As such, the ruling in this case signifies the larger condition of human rights for people in Thailand generally under the revitalized internal security state.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs FAQ on The King

To avoid misconception and serving unexpected jail terms, I would also recommend reading of Ministry of Foreign Affairs FAQ on The King, which contains guidelines to the official point of view concerning the monarchy and several controversial contributions like its role in Thailand politics.

FAQ Excerpt

  1. What is the role of the Thai monarch?

    As a constitutional monarch since 1932, the King of Thailand is above partisan politics and the administration of government. He reigns but has never ruled. The Thai Constitution provides that as Head of State, the King exercises his power through the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers and the Courts. In other words, laws passed by Parliament and appointments of those in high offices (e.g. President of the National Assembly, Prime Minister, members of the Cabinet) must be signed by the King and countersigned by those authorised before taking effect, while the Courts try and adjudicate cases in the King’s name. In addition, besides being an upholder of all religions, the King also holds the position of Head of the Thai Armed Forces and has the prerogative to create titles and confer decorations.

  2. Why do Thais love their King?

    The monarchy has been central to the Thai identity for over 700 years. The bond between the Thai people and this principal institution is deeply rooted in the history of Thai nationhood itself. Nevertheless, it is also the person of the King himself and what he has done which has earned him and the monarchy the love and respect of Thais.

    His Majesty the King has been an inspiration for the Thai people, always having their welfare at the uppermost of his mind. For over sixty years, he has been working hard for the well-being of his subjects in keeping with his Accession Oath to “reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people.” Since early in his reign, His Majesty the King travelled to all corners of Thailand, reaching the remotest, most dangerous parts, talking to the poor and vulnerable, to understand their ways and problems and find ways to help them.

    In this regard, he has initiated more than 4,000 Royal Development Projects, in such areas as irrigation, farming, drought and flood alleviation, crop substitution, public health, distance learning, employment promotion and traffic alleviation. These have touched the lives of many Thais – particularly farmers. He has also invented various tools and techniques which have been used for rural development – such as rain-making, soil erosion prevention and water purification. The sufficiency economy philosophy he has conceptualised – which emphasizes moderation, responsible consumption and resilience to external shocks – also provides guidance for individuals and business alike on sustainable living and undertakings as well as developing immunity against economic shocks.

  3. Has the Thai monarchy involved itself in politics?

    In recent years, there have been attempts by political groups to draw the monarchy into the political fray. Nevertheless, the fact remains that His Majesty the King has always taken great care to remain above partisan politics. He has never taken sides or involved himself in politics. The few interventions the King made, notably in 1973 and 1992, which decisively ended bloodshed on Bangkok’s streets after clashes between soldiers and protesters led to loss of life, were judicious humanitarian interventions rather than political ones.

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