Prayut, Prawit warn 'movement' against palace
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Prayut, Prawit warn 'movement' against palace

King asks them not to use lese majeste law

"As a Thai, you must not believe distorted information or news from hatemongers because it's not true," says Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. (Government House photo)

The prime minister has issued a warning to those involved in what he calls a movement to undermine the monarchy, but said His Majesty the King has mercy and has told him not to use the lese majeste law against them.

Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Monday violations of that law had increased since its use ceased 2-3 years ago.

Speaking separately, his deputy Gen Prawit Wongsuwon said security officials were investigating those involved.

"Once we get the list of names, we'll prosecute them," he said, adding the lese majeste law would not be used against them.

While the lese majeste law has indeed not been used over the past few years, the computer crime law has been increasingly applied to such offences.     

The two men spoke for the first time since a number of people, believed to be young, began taking to social media such as Twitter to share damaging information about the palace several months ago. 

"We know why they are active now. Isn't it close to a [symbolic] day? Thailand is different. We have never changed the country through violence. Several democratic countries have brought change through violence," Gen Prayut said.

He did not elaborate but June 24 will mark the 88th anniversary of the change from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy.

There were no such problems when Section 112 was in use, he said.

"The law was not used because His Majesty has mercy and asked that it not be used. This is what he did for us, and you've abused it. What does it mean then? What do you want?"

Gen Prayut said his biggest worry was attempts to undermine the palace.

"I plead with everyone. As a Thai, you must not believe distorted information or news from hatemongers because it's not true. You must look behind [their motive] and see what they really want. ... Why would you become their tool?" he said, without being more specific.

The prime minister urged people not to disseminate such information or click to read it, referring to social media.

He said he was forced to speak out today because he wanted peace. Regarding exiled people in neighbouring countries and Europe, he said the government had already sent letters asking those countries to send them back to Thailand if they caused trouble. "But when they don't send them back, what do you expect the government to do?"

He said some Thais had taken refuge abroad because they broke the law in Thailand. But some had not broken the law, or were accused of only minor offences, and he had no idea why they fled the country.  

As an example of the latter case, he cited Wanchalaerm Satsaksit, a Thai activist in Phnom Penh who was allegedly kidnapped 10 days ago.

"In the latest case, Wanchalerm was summoned but he refused to report. Instead, he fled abroad, took some actions and criticised other people from there. He also had some business.

"On this, Cambodia stands ready to investigate if someone files a complaint, which according to procedure, must be done through the Foreign Ministry," he said.

The government has sought cooperation from every country where these people sought asylum. "But the rule is they must not take any actions."

He added he felt sorry for them. "I sympathise with them as they are fellow Thais. I'm not a cruel man. Who can I possibly kill?"

Gen Prayut said all Thais who love their country, religion and the monarchy must help, especially with regards to their children.

"Unlike other countries, the major changes we made in the past were not done through violence. Several countries which are democracies today underwent changes through violence, causing mamy injuries and deaths. Why should we take them as examples?"

On a final note, he said he didn't want students to sabotage their future and said he had never threatened them.

"If they behave this way, they will find it hard to get jobs in the future. No companies want to hire people with such attitudes. How will they make a living?

"They are innocent but some people mislead them. Media must also help by not propagating such news because it will look bad elsewhere.

"Let's cooperate. Our country can succeed on its own," he concluded.

Section 112 is part of the Criminal Code and covers insults to, threats to or defamation of Thailand's leading royals. Each charge laid under the section carries 3-15 years in jail.

Other laws have been used in its place over the past several years. One is the Computer Crime Act, which carries penalties from 5-10 years and/or fines from 20,000 to 100,000 baht. Another is the national security law (Section 116 (3) of the Criminal Code) for charges such as sedition, which carries jail terms up to five years.  

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