Court verdict not a remedy
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Court verdict not a remedy

The verdict by the Constitutional Court on Nov 10 against three pro-democracy activists raises the prospect of more political turbulence on the horizon.

The 8:1 ruling has interpreted campaigns by the three activists -- human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, and Panupong Jadnok -- as a covert intention to overthrow the democratic regime with the King as head of state.

The verdict was particularly based on a 10-point demand carried by Ms Panusaya during a political rally at Thammasat University's Rangsit campus in August last year which called for an open debate on reforming the high institution. The court told the activists that such actions need to stop.

Although the court's verdict stipulates no penalties, it provides grounds for further action by related agencies to pursue criminal charges against the three. If that is the case, they may face life imprisonment or even death.

It's undeniable that such a verdict, which has intensified sentiments against the court, has raised fears about what comes next as both royalists and factions in the opposite political spectrum roll up their sleeves as divisiveness grows.

The royalists, spearheaded by right-wing campaigner Natthaporn Toprayoon, have made it clear they will seek criminal charges against the activists, while also taking aim at political parties allegedly rendering support to them.

It's no secret that the Move Forward Party, a reincarnation of the Future Forward Party, is their target. Right-wing elements want the Move Forward Party, due to its clear stance on amending Section 112, to be dissolved like its predecessor.

On Thursday, key government figures warned the activists not to defy the Nov 10 ruling as such actions would land them in deep trouble.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said police would act in accordance with the court's ruling in handling the activists.

Yet, human rights lawyer Mr Arnon, who is behind bars in connection with several charges including the lese majeste law, and Ms Panusaya vow to continue their mission.

Meanwhile, student organisations at major universities have issued a statement, rejecting the Nov 10 ruling outright. They have insisted the campaign's goal is to make reforms so as to ensure the high institution can be adaptive and remain relevant to modern society.

This is the time that all political factions must exercise their better judgement and not allow divisions to get out of hand. The country is already plagued with several serious problems. It cannot afford another political crisis that will push the country backwards.

The court verdict should by all means not derail a motion to amend Section 112 or lese majeste before parliament that is being pushed by the Move Forward Party.

The highlight of the party's proposal is the removal of the infamous law from the chapter of national security to a new chapter on the King's honour, which if effective, will see the penalties significantly reduced.

The court verdict, stringent as it is, should not hamper the right to freedom of expression, as mentioned in the constitution.

As change is unavoidable, it's necessary all involved parties realise the need for mechanisms that allow healthy and constructive debates over the amendment of Section 112 and also reform of the monarchy.

Like it or not, all, including the royalists, must realise the lese majeste law in its original form, not bare-handed activists, is a threat to the revered institution.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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