Thailand must release all six people currently detained under draconian lèse-majesté laws, FIDH and its member organization Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) said today. On 1 May, the Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of activist Yotwarit Chuklom, better known as Jeng Dokjik, to two years in jail for lèse-majesté under Article 112 of the Criminal Code. On 6 May, the Supreme Court rejected Jeng’s request for bail. Jeng is now detained in Bangkok’s Remand Prison.
“We reiterate our call for the release of all those who have been incarcerated under Article 112,” urged FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “Thailand must ensure that its lèse-majesté laws conform to international human rights standards and are applied in a just and sensible manner,” Mr. Lahidji added.
A comedian-turned activist, Jeng was a leading member of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) during street protests against the government of then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in March-May 2010. On 17 January 2013, the Bangkok Criminal Court found Jeng guilty of lèse majesté for defaming King Bhumibol Adulyadej during a UDD rally on 29 March 2010. Despite never mentioning the King’s name in his speech, the court interpreted Jeng’s words and body language as a reference to the revered Thai monarch.
Article 112 states that “whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne or the Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years.” Six people are currently incarcerated under Article 112.
They are: Ms. Daranee Chancherngsilpakul, serving 15 years in jail; Mr. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, 10 years;1 Mr. Kittithon Yamsamai, six years and eight months; Mr. Ekkachai Hongkangwan, three years and four months; Ms. Papatchanan Ching, three years and 10 days; and Yotwarit Chuklom aka Jeng Dokjik, two years. Many others have been released after receiving a royal pardon.
“The highly politicized use of lèse-majesté laws during the ongoing political crisis poses a serious threat to freedom of expression in Thailand,” said UCL Chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn. “It is extremely alarming that witch-hunts, threats, intimidation, and murder are being used instead of a free, open, and informed debate on lèse-majesté,” he added.
A recently-formed vigilante group called ‘Organization to Eliminate the Nation’s Trash’ (Thai: องค์กรเก็บขยะแผ่นดิน) has threatened to hunt down people perceived to be opposing the monarchy, describing them as trash.
On 23 April, unknown assailants shot and killed poet and activist Kamol Duangphasuk, also known as Maineung K. Kunthee, outside a restaurant in Bangkok. Although the motive for the murder remains under investigation, it is believed Kamol’s killing was linked to his political activities and his campaigns against Article 112.
On 12 February, unknown assailants fired gunshots and threw bricks at the home and car of Somsak Jeamteerasakul in Bangkok. Somsak, a history professor at Bangkok’s Thammasat University, is well known for his outspoken criticism of the Thai monarchy.