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Pattaya Daily News

02 September 2011 :: 10:09:59 am 57916

Scholars urge review of Thai royal insult rules

BANGKOK, September 1, 2011- More than 100 international academics have called on Thailand to review its tough rules against insulting the monarchy, saying political abuse of the legislation is undermining human rights.
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In an open letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, they also urged the government to review the cases of those already charged and convicted of lese majeste and to free on bail those fighting their cases in the courts.

Under Thailand’s lese majeste legislation, anybody convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count. The number of new lese majeste cases has increased sharply since 2005, the scholars noted.

“The political abuse… has seen a precipitous deterioration of human rights in Thailand,” said Kevin Hewison, professor of Asian Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the United States.

“Censorship of websites, self-censorship in the media and many, many charges of disloyalty mean serious restrictions on freedom of expression,” added Hewison, one of 112 academics who signed the letter.

Yingluck, the sister of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, said after her election win last month that the rules should not be misused, following several high profile cases against her brother’s supporters.

But in a sign she did not want a direct confrontation with the country’s powerful elites, her government last week vowed to set up a “war room” to urgently crack down on alleged online insults against the revered monarchy.

The law has come under heavy criticism from rights groups, which have expressed concern that they were used to suppress freedom of expression under the last government, considered close to the establishment.

In March, a webmaster was jailed for 13 years after the Internet site he ran, linked to the opposition movement, allegedly published comments insulting the monarchy.

Another website editor faces decades in prison if convicted — for failing to remove reader comments about the Thai monarchy quickly enough.

In May a US citizen was arrested in Thailand after he posted material deemed offensive on the Internet, while a prominent Thai historian who has tested taboos with calls for reform of the monarchy was charged under the rules.

Discussion of the monarchy’s role is a long-standing taboo in politically divided Thailand.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 83, the world’s longest-reigning monarch and revered as a demi-god by many Thais, has been in hospital since September 2009.

New Thai govt vows crackdown on insulting royals

BANGKOK, August 26, 2011 – Thailand’s new government on Friday vowed to crack down on what it described as online insults against the revered monarchy, despite widespread criticism of the country’s strict lese majeste rules.

Reporter : AFP   Photo : Internet   Category : Thailand News

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