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UN rights expert urges Thailand to loosen restrictions around monarchy defamation law

RISING SUN

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UN rights expert urges Thailand to loosen restrictions around monarchy defamation law

As a student activist awaits trial in detention for posting a news article about the new monarchy on social media, an independent United Nations expert today called on Thai authorities to stop using royal defamation laws to stifle free speech.

At issue is the concept of lèse-majesté – the defaming, insulting or threatening of the royal family – which in Thailand carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

“Lesè-majesté provisions have no place in a democratic country,” said David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of freedom of opinion and expression. “The lèse-majesté provision of the Thai Criminal Code is incompatible with international human rights law.”

The expert underlined that public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority, may be subject to criticism.

“The fact that some forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify restrictions or penalties,” he stressed.

The comments were sparked by a case against Jatupat Boonpatararaksa, a student activist, who shared a BBC news article on the new King, Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, on his private Facebook page.

Mr. Boonpatararaksa is being held in detention after an appeals court revoked his bail on 27 December, reportedly justified by the case's sensitive matter and on public order and national security grounds. He is expected back before a judge on 10 February.

In 2015, three people were sentenced to decades in prison for criticizing the monarchy on Facebook.

Mr. Kaye has repeatedly urged the Thai Government to allow free speech, including in July of last year when authorities clamped down on public and social media expressions ahead of a constitutional referendum later in the year.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56119#.WKB_kTj3Pu9
 

RISING SUN

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Thailand Puts Activist on Trial for Sharing BBC Article on Facebook
Jatupat Boonpattararaksa is accused of lese-majeste, or insulting the monarchy.
BY ELEANOR ROSS ON 2/10/17 AT 4:40 PM

Thai courts have agreed to put a well-known activist on trial for the crime of lese-majeste, or insulting the royal family. He is the first person accused of the offense since King Maha Vajiralongkorn came to power in October 2016.

Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, 25, known in activist circles as Pai Dao Din, shared a BBC profile of the new Thai king on Facebook. which authorities considered offensive. Pai Dao Din has arranged several protests; his group Din Dao’s goal is to end military rule and reintroduce democracy.

The army seized power from a caretaker government in 2014, and Thailand is still ruled by the military, with the king as head of state.

Authorities have refused bail to Boonpattararaksa, and he was taken from a provincial prison to Khon Kaen court where charges were read out by a judge. Article 112 of the Thai criminal code says: "anyone who defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent" could face 15 years in jail. The lese-majeste law remained almost unchanged since 1908 because of the monarch’s position as a symbol of stability in a country that has experienced 12 successful coups since 1932.

The article that Boonpattararaksa shared was published by the BBC Thai service in Bangkok a day after King Maha Vajiralongkorn accepted the title after the death of his father on 13 October. The article described the new king as a “womaniser” and into “gambling” and said that he struggled at school.

The article quoted the mother of the crown prince (now king) who described her son as “ a bit of a Don Juan” in 1981 and suggested that he preferred to spend his weekends with women rather than performing duties.

After the article was published, Thailand investigated the BBC. According to The Guardian, police officers turned up to question at the local BBC office and because it was closed, reportedly helped themselves to a delivery of Yakult milk outside the door.

http://europe.newsweek.com/activist-trial-bbc-thai-lese-majeste-law-555046?rm=eu
 

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