UN body demands immediate release of lèse-majesté detainee

Press release
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Bangkok Post / Thanarak Khunton

(Paris, Bangkok) A UN body has requested that Thailand immediately release lèse-majesté detainee Pornthip Munkong aka Golf and award her compensation for the arbitrary detention she has been subjected to, according to information received by FIDH.

In an opinion adopted on 2 December 2015, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) declared that Golf’s detention is arbitrary because it contravenes Articles 9 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Articles 9(3) and 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Thailand is a state party to the ICCPR. The referenced provisions guarantee the fundamental right to liberty, the right to a fair trial, and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

“Golf and all other lèse-majesté detainees should not spend a minute longer behind bars. The deprivation of liberty for the mere exercise of rights guaranteed by relevant international legal instruments is not only arbitrary but also abhorrent.”

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

On 23 February 2015, the Bangkok Criminal Court sentenced Golf to two and a half years in prison under Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code. Article 112 states that “whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne or the Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years.” Golf was found guilty of committing lèse-majesté for performing in a political play called Jao Sao Maa Paa [‘Wolf’s Bride’] at Bangkok’s Thammasat University in October 2013. The play, which centered on a fictional monarchy, was deemed to have insulted King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Golf is currently incarcerated at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution in Bangkok. She has been deprived of her liberty since her arrest on 15 August 2014 at Hat Yai International Airport, Songkhla Province.

Golf is the third Thai lèse-majesté detainee whose deprivation of liberty has been declared arbitrary by the UNWGAD.

On 19 November 2014, the UNWGAD declared that the detention of student activist Patiwat Saraiyaem aka Bank was arbitrary. Bank was arrested on 14 August 2014 on lèse-majesté charges for his participation in the Jao Sao Maa Paa play. On 23 February 2015, he was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

On 30 August 2012, the UNWGAD determined that the detention of former labor activist Somyot Phrueksakasemsuk was arbitrary. Somyot was arrested on 30 April 2011 for allowing the publication of two satirical articles that were deemed to have insulted the monarchy in the magazine for which he was the editor. On 23 January 2013, Somyot was sentenced to 10 years in prison on two counts of lèse-majesté.

As in the case of Golf, the UNWGAD urged the Thai government to immediately release Bank and Somyot and to accord them compensation.

“Numerous UN human rights bodies have censored Thailand for the abuse of its lèse-majesté laws. It’s time for Thailand to heed UN jurisprudence and comply with its international legal obligations.”

Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn, UCL Chairman

Under the current ruling military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the number of individuals detained or imprisoned under Article 112 has significantly increased. Since the 22 May 2014 military coup, at least 36 individuals have been sentenced to prison terms for violating Article 112. [1] Twenty-four of them were tried by military courts. In addition, at least 18 individuals are detained awaiting trial on lèse-majesté charges. At the time of the 22 May 2014 coup, there were six individuals behind bars on lèse-majesté charges.

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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