Lèse-majesté must not be used to criminalize pro-democracy protest leaders and participants

Press release

(Paris) Thai authorities must refrain from prosecuting individuals involved in the ongoing pro-democracy protests under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (lèse-majesté), FIDH urged today.

Yesterday, police summoned 12 activists to face charges under Article 112 in connection with their participation in the protests. Among the 12 are the following pro-democracy leaders: Messrs. Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, Tattep Runagprapaikitseree, and Piyarat Chongthep; and Mses. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Juthathip Sirikan, and Pasarawalee Thanakitwibulpol.

“After failing to deter peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations with unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, the Thai government is now using lèse-majesté to silence protesters. The international community must urge the Thai government to handle the ongoing protests through dialogue and within the framework provided by international human rights standards.”

Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Secretary-General

On 20 November 2020, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha indicated that Article 112 would be among “all laws and articles” to be enforced against pro-democracy protesters. Article 112 punishes with prison terms of three to 15 years those who are found guilty of defaming, insulting, or threatening the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne, or the Regent.

Prayuth’s statement represents a sudden U-turn in the Thai government’s policy with regard to the enforcement of Article 112. No legal action has been taken against individuals under Article 112 since July 2017, according to FIDH documentation. On 15 June 2020, Prayuth said Article 112 was not being enforced because King Rama X had “mercy and asked that it not be used.” [1]

FIDH reiterates its calls on the Thai government to amend Article 112 to bring it into line with Thailand’s human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party.

Various UN human rights monitoring mechanisms have repeatedly stated that Article 112 is inconsistent with international law and called for its amendment or repeal. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has consistently ruled that the deprivation of liberty stemming from lèse-majesté charges in Thailand is “arbitrary.” Between August 2012 and April 2019, the WGAD found the deprivation of liberty of all eight lèse-majesté cases brought to its attention to be “arbitrary,” and called for their immediate and unconditional release.

According to FIDH figures, between May 2014 and July 2017, at least 127 people were arrested under Article 112. Fifty-seven of them were sentenced to prison terms of up to 35 years.

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