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Nitirat scholars propose several changes

Jan 15. 2012
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By The Nation

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The Nitirat group of law scholars called yesterday for the amendment of Section 112 of the Criminal Code relating to lese majeste, saying the law is outdated and in need of an overhaul.

Mahidol University lecturer Kritaya Artwanitkul said the group made the following proposals: 

_ that Section 112 be removed from the national security law; 
_ that it include additional offences in relation to the honour of the King, the Queen, Royal Family members and regents; 
_ that the act provide separate legal protections for the King, the Queen, Royal Family members and regents; 
_ that the penalty for offences such as defamation or insulting or threatening the King be reduced to a maximum of three years’ jail, and to two years for offences against the Queen, Royal Family members and regents. 
The group also called for the exemption from punishment of those who honestly express a political opinion, as well as those whose allegations are proven to be true or useful to the public. 
It also urged that only the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary be granted the authority to file complaints against violators.
The group plans to solicit 10,000 signatures in support of the amendment within 112 days.
Worachet Pakeerat, head of the Nitirat group, said those accused of committing offences under Section 112 were subject not only to legal action but also to condemnation by society, which made it very difficult for them to live normal lives.
He said the lese majeste laws had not been changed since the country abandoned absolute monarchy in favour of democracy, except for offences in relation to threatening the King. 
The Nitirat group’s campaign to amend the law was the first step toward reforming the monarchy to ensure the institution continued in Thai society, he said.
Worachet said that people who threaten proponents of the amendment could be liable to prosecution under the Proposing Law Amendment Act 1999, violations of which are punishable by up to 5 years in jail and a Bt100,000 fine.
Dr Tul Sittisomwong, a leader of the multicoloured political group, vowed yesterday to oppose the Nitirat group’s push for change to the lese-majeste law. 
“The proposal for a lighter punishment will cause the number of lese-majeste offenders to rise,” he said. 
He was speaking as his group started gathering signatures from people who oppose the proposed amendment to lese-majeste laws. 
“We hope to collect as many as 10,000 signatures. We expect to submit the signatures to the Parliament president by early February,” he said. 

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