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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs