News / Asia

Thailand Debates Royal Insult Laws as Authorities Expand Use

Thai authorities are expanding the use of strict laws against insulting the monarchy, with recent prosecutions that critics say are eroding freedom of expression in the country. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Bangkok on the debate over the lese majeste laws that supporters says are needed to protect the country’s revered monarchy.

Thai royalists protested in front of the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok this month, denouncing criticism of the law called article 112 that carries stiff penalties for insulting the Thai King, Queen, or Crown Prince.



“The U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, Kristie Kenney, criticized article 112. We consider this interference with Thai sovereignty and judicial process,” said protest organizer Baworn.

Offenders face up to 15 years in jail, but the law is vague on what is considered an insult. Anyone can raise accusations and the police are obliged to investigate.


In December a Thai court sentenced American Joe Gordon to two and a half years in jail for posting links on his blog to a banned book about the Thai King. 
It was the first such conviction of an American and drew extra scrutiny because the offenses were committed while Gordon was living in the United States.

"We consider this sentence severe because he was sentenced for his right to freedom of expression, which is, as we said, is the international norm of human rights,” said U.S. Concul General Elizabeth Pratt.



Opponents of the law protested in November after a 62-year-old Thai man was given 20 years in jail for sending text messages deemed offensive to the Thai Queen. The man, Amphon Tangnoppaku, denied the charge.

"Next time, it can be me, it can be my friends, my child or someone I know…Nobody should be jailed for almost 20 years for expressing an opinion which practically caused no trouble to anyone," said protester Suwat Komonsithikul.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose supporters have been targeted under the law, has surprised observers by aggressively pursuing alleged cases of lese majeste.

A new “war room” of 50 investigators scours the Internet for crimes including harassment and pornography. But on this first tour given to foreign television, investigators emphasized their main focus.

“So, the first priority is the monarchy. And, the other contents are important too, but the priority is later,” said computer technical officer Narongdej Watcharapasorn.

The evidence of alleged offenses is so sensitive it is kept in a sealed room.

They have so far blocked 60,000 web pages.  His team now asks providers like Facebook and Google to help by removing offensive web pages at the source.

“If Facebook has 1,000 pictures, it may have 1,000 URLs and we have to suppress 1,000 URLs. But, if we ask Facebook to remove the content for us all 1,000 URLs will disappear without using the court order and will disappear forever,” Narongdej said.

Facebook tells VOA they restrict content in countries where it is considered illegal, but did not specify what content, if any, they are blocking in Thailand.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More