Government hits back at lese majeste law critics
The Foreign Ministry has defended Thailand's lese majeste law, saying the law has the objective of maintaining public order, not getting rid of freedom of expression.
The move came after a pair of high-profile attacks from two international bodies -- the UN's Special Rapporteur and Amnesty International (AI) -- which claimed that the military regime is using the law to suppress and intimidate civil society and peaceful critics. The ministry said the Thai monarchy has always been a pillar of stability in Thailand. The Thai sense of identity is closely linked to the monarchy, an institution that dates back over 700 years.
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It added that the lese majeste law is part of the Criminal Code, which gives protection to the rights and reputation of His Majesty the King as well as members of the royal family in a similar manner that libel laws do for commoners in upholding national security and public order. It is not aimed at curbing people's rights to freedom of expression.
The ministry said that while Thailand supports and values freedom of expression, these rights are not absolute and shall be exercised within the boundary of the law.
David Kaye, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, attacked what he called the misuse of laws prohibiting defamation of the monarchy.
"The lese-majeste provision of the Criminal Code is incompatible with international human rights law," Mr Kaye said.
"I urge the authorities of Thailand to take steps to revise the country's Criminal Code and repeal the law that establishes a justification for criminal prosecution."
AI also criticised the regime.
"Thai authorities are waging a campaign to criminalise dissent by targeting civil society who peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly," it said.