Thailand: Lèse-majesté detentions have reached alarming levels, new report says

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(Paris) Lèse-majesté detentions have reached alarming levels after the 22 May 2014 military coup in Thailand, FIDH and UCL said in a new report published today.

The report, titled “36 and counting - Lèse-majesté imprisonment under Thailand’s military junta”, raises serious concerns over the pattern of violations of the right to liberty, the right to a fair trial, and the right to freedom of opinion and expression stemming from prosecutions under Article 112 of the Criminal Code (lèse-majesté). These violations are in breach of Thailand’s obligations under key international human rights instruments.

“The abuse of lèse-majesté laws has contributed significantly to the deterioration of Thailand’s human rights record after the coup. At the upcoming Universal Periodic Review of Thailand, the international community must recommend that Thailand address human rights violations linked to lèse-majesté prosecutions and press for the reform of Article 112.”

FIDH President Karim Lahidji

Under Thailand’s ruling military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), a lèse-majesté investigation is nearly three times more likely to lead to criminal charges than it was prior to the coup. Since 22 May 2014, 36 individuals have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms under Article 112.

At the time of the military takeover, six people were behind bars for lèse-majesté violations. As of 20 February 2016, there were 53 - a nearly nine-fold increase. This number includes 35 individuals serving prison terms and 18 detainees awaiting trial.

Long pre-trial detentions and the systematic denial of bail to which many lèse-majesté defendants have been subjected are significant violations of their basic rights, including the fundamental right to liberty and the right to a fair trial. Only four of the 66 individuals (6%) arrested for alleged violations of Article 112 after the May 2014 coup were released on bail pending trial. As of 20 February 2016, 61% of lèse-majesté defendants had been detained for at least a year while awaiting trial and 28% had been detained for nearly six months.

10 figures you need to know about the crime of Lèse-majesté

In addition, the jurisdiction over all cases involving an alleged lèse-majesté offense committed after the coup was transferred to military tribunals, leading to a further erosion of the right to a fair trial. Since the coup, military courts have tried and sentenced 24 lèse-majesté defendants to prison terms that were, on average, two-and-a-half years longer than post-coup prison sentences handed down by civilian courts under Article 112.

Since the 22 May 2014 coup, nearly 75% of lèse-majesté arrests, detentions, and imprisonments have been related to the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The deprivation of liberty that stems from these lèse-majesté prosecutions as well as the severe restrictions on the free flow of information concerning the Thai monarchy are clear violations of Thailand’s legal obligations under international law with regard to the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

In the last several years, numerous UN bodies and special procedures have publicly expressed their concern over the prosecutions, the prolonged detention, and the lengthy prison sentences imposed under Article 112. They have also repeatedly called for the amendment of Article 112 and the release of lèse-majesté detainees. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) has declared the detention of three lèse-majesté detainees, Somyot Phrueksakasemsuk, Patiwat Saraiyaem, and Pornthip Munkong arbitrary. The UNWGAD requested that authorities release the three and award them compensation for the arbitrary detention to which they have been subjected.

“Unless Thailand takes immediate steps to reform Article 112, the number of lèse-majesté detainees is likely to continue to increase. The reform of Article 112 will improve Thailand’s battered international image and address some of the human rights concerns expressed by the international community.”

UCL Chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn

The report includes the profiles of six individuals - three men and three women - who have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to 30 years for lèse-majesté and lèse-majesté-related violations of the Computer Crimes Act. Their stories exemplify the range of human rights violations that authorities have committed as a result of the overzealous enforcement of Article 112.

Download the report here.

Press contacts:
FIDH: Mr. Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33672284294 (Paris)
FIDH: Ms. Audrey Couprie (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33648059157 (Paris)
UCL: Mr. Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn (Thai, English) - Tel: +66890571755 (Bangkok)

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