New report spurs call for reform of lese majeste law

New report spurs call for reform of lese majeste law

A new report shows lese majeste imprisonment is becoming a pattern, violating liberties, the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression, prompting a rare call for reform to the lese majeste law.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Union for Civil Liberties (UCL) on Friday released the report on lese majeste imprisonment under Thailand’s military regime.

The report raised serious concerns over the pattern of violations to the rights to liberty, a fair trial, and freedom of opinion stemming from prosecutions under Section 112 of the Criminal Code.

These violations are in breach of Thailand’s obligations under key international human rights instruments, the report said.

“The abuse of lese majeste laws has contributed significantly to the deterioration of Thailand’s human rights record after the coup. At the upcoming Universal Periodic Review of Thailand, the international community must recommend that Thailand address human rights violations linked to lese majeste prosecutions and press for the reform of Article 112,” said FIDH president Karim Lahidji.

“Unless Thailand takes immediate steps to reform Article 112, the number of lese majeste detainees is likely to continue to increase," said the UCL chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn.

Under the ruling National Council for Peace and Order, a lese majeste investigation is nearly three times more likely to lead to criminal charges than it was prior to the coup. Since May 22, 2014, 36 individuals have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms under Section 112.

At the time of the coup, six people were behind bars for lese majeste violations. As of Feb 20, 2016, there were 53 — a nearly nine-fold increase. This number includes 35 individuals serving prison terms and 18 awaiting trial.

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