BANGKOK – The US Embassy in Bangkok and the US Department of State are keeping silent over a police inquiry into whether recent remarks by its ambassador to Thailand constituted royal defamation, but rights groups have plenty to say.
The preliminary police investigation into the Nov 25 speech by US Ambassador to Thailand Glyn T. Davies that criticized lengthy jail sentences imposed under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, is an example of the “the absurd extremes of Thailand’s restrictions on freedom of expression,” Amnesty International said late Wednesday in London.
Police are obliged to carry out following any allegation of lese majeste.
A police officer told the Bangkok Post that the investigation was likely to be no more than a formality.
“It is an automatic protocol. The ambassador is protected by diplomatic immunity,” the senior officer said Thursday, requesting anonymity.
The US State Department declined to comment in detail on the inquiry.
“We’re aware of reports,” the department’s spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “The US government has the utmost respect for the Thai monarchy. Ambassador Davies reiterated long-standing US policy on the issue of freedom of expression.”
Thailand’s lese majeste law has been described by critics as being among the world’s strictest. The law says whoever criticizes, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent can be imprisoned for up to 15 years for each offense.
The Thai police have begun interrogating people concerned in reaction to a criminal complaint filed by an individual, but it remains uncertain whether the inquiry will develop into a full investigation, according to a police official.