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TRCT calls for Amendment of the Lese Majeste Law

The Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRCT) yesterday issued a statement backing calls for amendment of the lese majeste law on grounds that the suppression of insults to the monarchy had been politicised to fuel social divisions

 

TRCT chairman Kanit na Nakorn reminded all sides that instead of shedding light on a possible solution, the debate on the issue seemed only to have caused greater confusion.

Certain elements were invoking Article 112 of the Criminal Code in the name of the royalist cause for self-serving reasons to damage their political opponents, he said. At the same time, the other side has argued that Article 112 stifles their freedom of expression, he added.

“The TRCT has taken up the challenge of reviewing the lese majeste clause with the hope of bringing about reconciliation,” Kanit said.

After reviewing legal precedents in several countries, the TRCT found that whereas other democracies had adopted a liberal approach toward law enforcement, Thailand appeared to have opted for an authoritarian approach, he said.

Political parties in other democracies had been developed to tackle national issues under the rule of law, but Thai parties were less developed as political institutions, he said.

While the approach of law enforcement in places such as Germany and Japan was found to be reliable in dealing with extremist subversive groups such as the Red Army, Thai law enforcement appeared lopsided, triggering despair and paving the way for power seizures, he said.

Given the prevailing conditions, the repeal of Article 112 might not be warranted, but at the same time, criminal culpability for lese majeste had been wrongfully politicised, Kanit said.

DETERRENCE, NOT SUPPRESSION

As a way to ensure the survival of Article 112 while preventing politicisation, the clause should be amended and enforced as a form of deterrence, in lieu of suppression.

The TRCT proposed that the following five steps be undertaken to amend Article 112:

First, the lese majeste clause should stipulate that power of attorney is required to activate prosecution proceedings, in lieu of a mandatory review by public prosecutors.

Second, the Lord Chamberlain, a position appointed at the royal discretion, should be entrusted with the responsibility to decide on the power of attorney for each case.

Third, the penalties for insulting royalty should be reduced.

Fourth, in the TRCT’s view, the maximum jail term should not exceed seven years with or without a fine of no more than Bt14,000.

Fifth, Article 112 should be amended along with Article 133 prescribing the protection of foreign heads of state. The amended Article 133 should prescribe imprisonment of no more than three years with or without a fine of no more than Bt6,000.

In a related development, a National Human Rights Commission-appointed panel has formed a 13-member task force to review the lese majeste clause and the computer law.

The task force, led by activist Jon Ungphakorn, is scheduled to complete its report on June 16, 2012.

Jon’s task force is entrusted to come up with recommendations on whether the enforcement of Article 112 has infringed on human rights, and if so, how to rectify it.

National Human Rights Commission member Niran Pitakwatchara said the agency had received many complaints related to Article 112 since he took up the position, especially in the past two years.

“We have to examine the issue to make sure everything goes according to the law and prevent [the article’s] use as a political tool,” Niran said.

The Nation

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