The United Nations human rights experts have condemned Thailand’s increasing use of the draconian Lese Majeste law. Article 112 is a law forbidding criticism of its royal family. Recently a Thai court singled out an elderly woman and sentenced her to 43-year in prison.
The United Nations condemnation comes after dozens of police cases have been filed against leaders of youth-led demonstrations that have broken taboos by openly criticizing the Monarchy. Risking prosecution under a strict law known as Lese Majeste that is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Each Lese Majeste charge can run consecutively.
Since November, at least 40 youth activists have been charged under the draconian Lese Majeste law, according to records compiled by the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. All of the legal cases are pending.
“We are profoundly disturbed by the reported rise in the number of lese majeste prosecutions since late 2020 and the harsher prison sentences,” a group of seven UN special rapporteurs and members of a working committee on arbitrary detention said in a statement on Monday.
The The United Nations UNHRC human rights office in December called on Thailand to amend the law.
Monday’s statement singled out the case of Anchan Preelert, a 65-year-old woman sentenced to 43 years in prison in January in what lawyers said was the harshest punishment yet for royal insult.
The government briefly stopped using the lese majeste law in 2018 at the Kings request. However the Royal Thai Police started to invoke it again late last year after young protesters began openly criticizing the monarchy.
Lese Majeste a political weapon
Last month Thailand’s government filed a criminal complaint of defaming the monarchy against a banned opposition politician because he criticized the country’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy.
The complaint against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit under Article 112 of the criminal code came two days after he said the government was too reliant on a company owned by the Crown Property Bureau. The company just happens to be under the king’s personal control, to produce vaccines for Thais.
Government officials who filed the complaint told reporters Thanathorn had defamed the monarchy by linking it to the vaccine strategy.
“Thanathorn distorted facts and caused misunderstanding among people,” Suporn Atthawong, a minister in the prime minister’s office, told reporters.
“He violated the monarchy, which upset Thai people who love and protect the monarchy.”
The complaint, which also included a cyber crime accusation of uploading false information, came after Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who took power in a 2014 military coup, vowed to prosecute “distorted” information about his government’s vaccine strategy.