The Siam Samakkhi group has called on officials from the United Nations and the US government who made comments on the lese majeste laws to apologise for interfering in Thailand’s internal affairs and for being disrespectful to the judicial system.
About 200 supporters of Siam Samakkhi, a right-wing political network, yesterday gathered in front of the United Nations building on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue to protest against the UN’s call for an amendment to Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law.
A UN expert on rights protection and freedom of expression in October urged the government to amend Section 112 and the 2007 Computer Crime Act, saying the laws were too vague and the harsh criminal sanctions went against universal norms.
Earlier this month, Ravina Shamdasani, acting spokeswoman of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed concern about “harsh sentencing of people convicted of lese majeste and the chilling effect this is having on freedom of expression”. Her remark followed the sentencing of Ampon Tangnoppakul, 61, to 20 years in jail for sending four text messages deemed offensive to the monarchy on Nov 23. On Dec 8, a US citizen, Thai-born Lerpong Wichaikhammat, 55, was jailed for two-and-a-half years for using the internet to disseminate information that insulted the monarchy.
In the letter, the Siam Samakkhi Network called on the United Nations to “stop whatever action and activities that might affect the constitutional monarchy of Thailand”.
The UN should also stop all activities that might affect the bond between Thais and the monarchy, they said.
The demonstrators later moved to the US embassy on Wireless Road, where they handed over the same petition to embassy officials.
The protesters, who gathered in front of the embassy, held placards and spoke through loudspeakers reproaching ambassador Kristie Kenney for making “inappropriate” comments about the lese majeste law.
The ambassador wrote on her Twitter page last week she had utmost respect for the monarchy, but was “troubled by prosecutions inconsistent with international standard of freedom of expression”. The group also urged Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government to take a stand against outsiders’ interference in the country’s affairs.
The US embassy yesterday reiterated the US government has the utmost respect for the monarchy, the royal family and Thai culture.
“We respect Thai laws and do not take sides in Thailand’s internal affairs. We support freedom of expression around the world and consider it a fundamental human right,” it said.
Meanwhile, civil activists from the Thai Netizen Network and Activists for Democracy Network yesterday submitted an open letter to the UN and the US embassy, saying they supported their stance in calling for the amendment to Section 112.
“We hope you will continue monitoring violations of freedom of expression and help strengthen human rights protection,” they said.
A group of 15 academics has proposed that a committee be set up to screen cases deemed to violate Section 112. The group said the screening panel would solve problems regarding the use of the law as a political tool by certain groups to slander their rivals.
The panel would be made up of representatives from all sides, including the executive and legislative branches, the National Human Rights Commission, prosecutors, academics, local leaders and unions. Only lawsuits approved by the committee should be allowed to proceed, they said.