Pattaya Daily News

18 February 2009 :: 16:02:03 pm 28000

Nicolaides in Line for Royal Pardon

Australian Harry Nicolaides, facing a three-year jail sentence for insulting Thai monarchy, has been recommended for a royal pardon, Thai corrections department officials said. Nicolaides, 41, was sentenced on January 19 by a Thai criminal court for insulting the country's monarchy in his 2005 novel Verisimilitude, which contained references to the crown prince.
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He was arrested in late August as he boarded a flight to Melbourne and was repeatedly denied bail. He remained in prison until the final hearing in January when he was found guilty of breaching Thailand’s lese majeste laws.

TV images of a deeply distraught Nicolaides led to widespread concern in Australia, with his family shocked as he was brought to the court in prison garb and chains.

Thai corrections department officials said a recommendation for Nicolaides to receive a royal pardon from King Bhumipol Adulyadej is underway.

The recommendation is supported by the Pardons Division of the Corrections Department with Nicolaides’ case overseen by division official Thanawat Pakdebutra.

But the complete documentation is still to be finalised, corrections department planning division officer Putthipong Natthajaruwit said.

Mr Putthipong said the investigation was in the final stages, with further evidence pending from the court.

“We are waiting for evidence from the court and we will make a petition to the minister and then send it to the King.

Vital recommendation

“We continue to recommend pardoning Harry [but the process] is not finished yet,” he said.

“We are waiting for when we get the evidence, then it will be finished to sign then continue to the King.”

A one month limit for Nicolaides’ lawyers to lodge an appeal to his three-year jail sentence is due to lapse this week.

Once passed, this would allow for the pardon to be presented to the justice minister and then to the Royal Palace.

Correction department officials said notification of the pardon could take place within the next month.

“We cannot tell how long, [only] when everything is finished, then it will continue immediately to the King,” he said.

Human rights lawyer Somchai Homla-or said the corrections departments recommendation was very important in that it would clear the way for the granting of a pardon.

“I believe that with this recommendation [Nicolaides] will be granted a pardon from his majesty. The recommendation from the department is very important,” Mr Somchai said. “With the recommendation [for a pardon] he should get it.”

The Australian Government and embassy officials have for several months been lobbying for Nicolaides’ release.

An embassy official said several steps remained before the release and that the embassy remained in close touch with Thai authorities.

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Thai PM: Lese majeste law must not be abused
The Straits Times
15 February 2009
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BANGKOK, Feb 12 Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday defended Thailand’s harsh lese majeste law but acknowledged that it should not be abused.

In an exclusive interview with The Straits Times at his office in Parliament House, Abhisit said: A lot of countries have contempt of court laws, because the courts have to be neutral and respected. The monarchy is a revered institution above politics and conflicts and therefore has no self-defence mechanism, that’s why we have the law.

He agreed however, that the application of the law ?has caused a number of problems.

Unfortunately the cases that are proceeding are not cases initiated during my administration; they were in the pipeline. But I’ve already told the police chief there are some concerns and sensitivities that he should be aware of when applying the law, and he has to be more careful that the law is not abused or too liberally interpreted.

Abhisit’s comments came amid controversy following the jailing of Australian writer Harry Nicolaides for lese majeste last month, and the prosecution of a prominent academic professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn who last weekend fled to Britain and released a statement attacking Thai courts as a tool of the elite and the army.

The two cases are among a recent spate of lese majeste complaints and charges, which have seen some accused held without bail. As a result, the lese majeste issue has drawn renewed attention within Thailand and overseas, and there are embryonic campaigns under way at home and abroad, to demand abolishment of the law.

Thailand’s lese majeste laws are the harshest in the world and call for a jail term of up to 15 years for anyone who defames, insults or threatens the monarchy.

Any person can file a lese majeste complaint, and under the law the complaint cannot be rejected but must be followed up by the police.

Media reporting on such cases is muted, partly because repeating the basis of the charge also leaves one open to being accused of lese majeste.

Abhisit said: For some of the people who are said to be critics or analysts, if their actions had been about expressing their views about the role of the monarchy as an institution in a democratic system, that’s fine, but they are not being prosecuted for that. They are being prosecuted for untruths that they spread about the monarchy, or comments that violate the law.

On apparent moves to undermine the monarchy, he said: I think there are some people who have an interest in drawing the monarchy into this partisan or political conflict. We intend to stop that.

On the role of the military and whether it is subordinate to the civilian authority or above and separate Abhisit said: It’s a sensitive situation not just for the military but for the civil service also, that they are here to serve the country but they are not policymaking bodies.

“When you have a government that sets clear policies and exercises authority within the law, I think the civil service and the military simply have to perform their duties.”

Said the Prime Minister: I think since 1992, the military has stepped back. It was during the Thaksin years that they got back into politics. The way I intend to run my government is back to the post-1992 days.

Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who ran the country from 2001-2006, is now in self-exile overseas and a fugitive from Thai law.

Abhisit said he was also in favour of amending the Constitution, and would consult the opposition on that issue.

A reform process will take place, their (the opposition’s) voices will be heard, their role will be included in this process.

Thailand faces a test of credibility when it chairs the Asean Summit later this month.

We want to carry out our commitments as chair of Asean, so we should have the summit, and everybody knows we need a government that is strong and well prepared for the fallout of the economic crisis.

This is when the country needs stability and to move forward. I will dissolve the House when I think it’s appropriate.

On whether he worries about Thaksin’s next move, he said No.

I worry about the people of Thailand, not about his problems, he said. The Straits Times

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Politics News

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