HM urges 'mercy' for any slurs
PM issues warning to anti-monarchists
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has issued a warning to those involved in what he has labelled an anti-monarchy movement, although he said His Majesty the King has mercy and has told him not to use the lese majeste law against them.
Gen Prayut said yesterday violations of Section 112 of the Criminal Code, known as the lese majeste law, had increased since authorities had stopped invoking the law after the 2016 prosecution of Jatupat "Pai Dao Din" Boonpattarasaksa.
The prime minister was speaking for the first time since a reported wave of social media sharing involving stories about the palace begun 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," Gen Prayut said.
He did not elaborate but June 24 will mark the 88th anniversary of the country's change from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy.
"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?
"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?" the prime minister said, without being more specific.
The prime minister called on people not to disseminate such information or click to read it, referring to the use of social media.
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, but as they were accused of only minor offences he had no idea why they had fled.
"In the latest case, this one [Wanchalearm Satsaksit] was summoned but he refused to report. Instead, he fled abroad, took some actions and criticised other people from there.
"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?"
While the lese majeste law has indeed not been used over the past few years, other laws have been invoked in its place, such as the Computer Crime Act, and Section 116 of the Criminal Code for charges such as sedition.
Among prisoners in lese majeste cases who were released from jail recently was Jatupat who was freed on May 10 of last year after being imprisoned for two years and six months for lese majeste and violating the Computer Crime Act for sharing a controversial BBC Thai Facebook post.
Another was Singer Thanat Thanawatcharanond, aka Tom Dundee, who was released on July 17 last year after serving five years, or half his original term for lese majeste, after a royal pardon was granted.
According to information released in August last year by the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, there were at least 25 people still imprisoned for violating Section 112 nationwide.
Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon yesterday said security officials were investigating those involved in the recent spate.
"Once we get the list of names, we'll prosecute them," he said, adding the lese majeste law would not be used against them.