World Bulletin/News Desk
The author of an article that led to a news website editor being jailed for insulting Thailand’s King Monday has called to the country’s lese majeste law to be repealed.
Giles Ji Ungpakorn, an academic who fled Thailand in February 2009 after being charged under the law, told The Anadolu Agency: “It really does need to be scrapped. This excuse that there’s some kind of special case in Thailand is just an excuse for repression… It’s more than about the King. It’s the way the elite, especially the military, use the King to justify their interference in politics.”
Nut Rongwong, editor of Thai E-News, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years over an article written by Ungpakorn that was published five years ago. His sentence was reduced by half due to a guilty plea.
Thailand’s lese majeste laws, under which any insult or criticism of the Royal family is punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment, have been increasingly used since the military seized power in May.
Ungpakorn, an associate professor of politics at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok until he was forced to leave Thailand, said: “The lese majeste laws in Thailand are the opposite of human rights. They’re outdated and should be scrapped.
“The important thing is that they’re not being used to defend the monarchy. They’re being used to suppress opposition to the status quo, especially the military dictatorship. The king could easily protected by ordinary laws like libel laws.”
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former army commander-in-chief, is a royalist who has clamped down on any perceived criticism of the monarchy.
He became army chief in October 2010, five months after one of Thailand’s deadliest political conflicts in which at least 91 people were left dead and more than 1,500 injured. Chan-ocha reportedly led calls within the military for a hard line against demonstrators.
Speaking by telephone from Britain, Ungpakorn said: “The glaring outrage is that the prime minister of Thailand is someone who ordered shooting on unarmed demonstrators in 2010, so you have a situation where editors and writers are being locked up but the real criminal is running the country.”
Many observers see the increasing use of the lese majeste laws as linked to worries over the succession. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch, turns 87 next week and there have been recent concerns over his health. His son and heir, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, is much less popular than his father.Last Mod: 24 Kasım 2014, 17:03