Bangkok police open inquiry in US ambassador's speech

Bangkok police open inquiry in US ambassador's speech

US ambassador Glyn Davies speaks at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on Nov 25. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)
US ambassador Glyn Davies speaks at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on Nov 25. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)

Bangkok police have launched an inquiry into whether a controversial speech by US ambassador Glyn T Davies condemning long prison sentences for lese majeste convictions violated Thailand's royal defamation law.

Police at the Lumpini station began their initial probe after a complaint was filed against the US ambassador for his Nov 25 comments at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand. In the speech, he expressed the US government's concern over the "unprecedented" prison terms handed down for violations of Section 112 of the Criminal Code, as well as the application of the country's criminal defamation laws.

The speech sparked a protest by ultra-nationalists outside the American embassy Nov 28.

"It's not yet a formal investigation as we're still in the process of gathering information and fact-finding. If we find the ambassador's remarks defamatory according to the law, then we will launch the official investigation," said a police at the Lumpini station, which has jurisdiction over the area where the FCCT is located.

The officer spoke on the condition of anonymity as the probe is not yet official.

A Facebook user named "Sonthiya Sawasdee" posted a copy of his complaint at the Crime Suppression Division on Dec 3 asking police action to review a recording of the speech.

Sonthiya, whose other postings profess the innocence of former army chief Udomdej Sitabutr in the Rajabhakti Park scandal, also sought the police summons for those involved in organising the FCCT talk.

The complaint also demanded police summon the American ambassador for questioning as "the reported speech was an insult to the monarchy that Thai people could not stand idle."

Deputy police spokesman Pol Maj Gen Piyaphan Pingmuang has previously downplayed the controversy, noting that the ambassador has diplomatic immunity, so the police could not proceed with any legal action against him.

FCCT president Jonathan Head said police asked him to assist in an investigation into whether comments made by ambassador Davies at the club violated Section 112 of the Criminal Code. The section protects the royal institution from offences and is known as the lese majeste law.

In tweets to Bangkok Post reporter Achara Ashayagachat, Mr Head, who also is Bangkok correspondent for the BBC of the United Kingdom, also pointed out the American ambassador's immunity from prosecution.

But he said the FCCT would turn over a recording of the event to the Lumpini police.

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