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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid