“In less than three years, the military junta has generated a surge in the number of political prisoners detained under lese-majeste by abusing a draconian law that is inconsistent with Thailand’s international obligations,” said FIDH president Dimitris Christopoulos.
Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code (lese-majeste) imposes jail terms for those who defame, insult, or threaten the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne or the Regent. Persons found guilty of violating Article 112 face prison terms of three to 15 years for each count.
The number of people who have been arrested under Article 112 of the Criminal Code has reached 105, following the arrest of six individuals on April 29. Forty-nine of them have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 30 years. To date, at least 64 individuals are either imprisoned or detained awaiting trial on lese-majeste charges.
At the time of the May 22 2014 coup, six individuals were behind bars under Article 112. Eighty-one of the 105 cases involved deprivation of liberty for the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
The remaining cases are related to individuals who were arrested for claiming ties to the royal family for personal gain.
“Many of those arrested are democracy activists and outspoken critics of the military regime. In some instances, they were kidnapped from their homes by military officers and interrogated in secret for several days in military camps before being formally charged. Lese-majeste defendants are rarely granted bail, and so spend months or even years fighting their cases while in detention. All of this makes a mockery of ‘justice’ in Thailand’s justice system,” said iLaw executive director Jon Ungpakorn.
On March 28, following a review of the country’s second periodic report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in Geneva, Switzerland, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern over the “extreme sentencing practices” for those found guilty of lese-majeste. The committee recommended that Thailand review Article 112 to bring it into line with Article 19 of the ICCPR and reiterated that the imprisonment of persons for exercising their freedom of expression violates this provision. The UN rights committee also demanded that authorities release those who have been deprived of their liberty for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
“The Thai government has run out of excuses to avoid reforming lese-majeste. Article 112 must be brought into compliance with Thailand’s international obligations as demanded by numerous UN mechanisms,” said UCL chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn.
The International Federation for Human Rights, known by its French acronym FIDH, is an international human rights NGO representing 184 organisations from more than 100 countries.