Girl 16 Arrested in Thailand for Defaming Royalty on Facebook
Thailand’s Lawyers for Human Rights have reported that another teenage girl has been arrested after being formally charged with article 112 royal defamation aka Lese Majesty.
According to the lawyers’ group, the alleged act occurred when the girl, now 16, was 14 years and one month old, making her the youngest person ever charged under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese-majeste legislation.
According to police detectives, the teenager, identified only as “May,” utilised Facebook on the night of November 18, 2020 to post statements online that were deemed offensive to His Majesty the King. Naengnoi Asavakittikorn, a member of a cyberbullying support group, saw the messages and filed a police report.
On June 4, 2021, police officials at the Muang Phitsanulok station issued a summons for May to be questioned, but solely as a witness, because a formal charge had not yet been prepared.
She agreed, but afterwards admitted that the event had been incredibly upsetting. She claimed that Special Branch police officers had visited her home and that she had seen plainclothes police officers in front of her house and at her school. She eventually dropped out of school and relocated to Bangkok.
On Monday of this week, she and her parents travelled from Bangkok to the Phitsanulok Provincial Police station to meet another summons. She refuted all of the accusations. She appeared in Phitsanulok Juvenile and Family Court later that day, where police requested her detention. They did not, however, object to bail, which the court granted because she had cooperated with the summons.
Her parents put up a 20,000 baht surety for her release.
May is the 19th minor accused under Section 112 since 2020, according to TLHR. Four of them were under the age of 15 when the alleged crimes were committed, and 15 were between the ages of 15 and 18.
The most high-profile case is that of Thanalop or “Yok,” a Bangkok adolescent who celebrated her 50th day in incarceration at a juvenile institution in Nakhon Pathom on Wednesday.
In response to criticism of her arrest, the Central Juvenile and Family Court published a statement last week. According to the report, the girl’s mother failed to present for her bail hearing, resulting in her extended incarceration at the Ban Pranee Juvenile Vocational Training Centre for Girls.
On May 10, a violent protest erupted at the Samran Rat police station in response to Yok’s allegations. Demonstrators sprayed paint on the stairs, walls, and police vehicles, as well as breaking doors, and a following conflict with authorities resulted in nine arrests. Seven males and two women appeared in court on accusations involving public property damage and were later released on bail.
Since the start of the Free Youth pro-democracy protests in July 2020, 1,902 persons have been prosecuted for political participation and expression, according to TLHR data up to April 30 this year. At least 242 people have been accused with lese majeste, and 130 have been charged with sedition.
Article 112 in Thailand
In Thailand, the crime of lese majesty, also known as “insulting the monarchy,” refers to any action or expression that defames, insults, or threatens the Thai royal family. It is considered a serious offense under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code.
Section 112 states that “whoever defames, insults, or threatens the King, Queen, Heir-apparent, or Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The law has been criticized for its vague wording and severe penalties, which have been seen as suppressing freedom of speech and expression in the country.
In recent years, there has been increased scrutiny and international concern regarding the enforcement and application of lese majesty laws in Thailand. People have been charged and prosecuted for offenses related to lese majesty, including individuals expressing their opinions on social media, sharing or liking content deemed critical of the monarchy, or participating in public protests that involve criticism of the royal family.
However, it’s worth noting that in recent years there have been some changes in the approach to lese majesty in Thailand. In 2020, Thai authorities announced that they would exercise more restraint in pursuing lese majesty charges, and there has been a decrease in the number of cases filed under this law. Additionally, in 2021, a royal pardon was granted to some individuals who had been convicted of lese majesty offenses.
It’s important to keep in mind that my knowledge cutoff is in September 2021, and the situation may have evolved since then. It’s recommended to refer to up-to-date sources and news outlets for the latest information on lese majesty laws in Thailand.