Why We Have to Abolish Lèse-majesté


Lèse-majesté in Thailand or Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code is an offense against a reigning sovereign's dignity. It stipulates that "Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of 3 to 15 years".

It was enacted in the section on offenses relating to the security of the kingdom in the Criminal Code of 1956 by the royalists during the period when the People's Party (Khana Ratsadon) began to lose its political power. It first set forth an imprisonment term not exceeding seven years.

After October 6, 1976, Section 112 was amended by changing the jail time to between 3 and 15 years, which led to the reviving period of the Thai monarchy.

Following a coup in 2014 by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), Section 112 was excessively misused to suppress their opponents and restrict the freedom of the Thai people. The most preposterous yet tragic conviction of all was the case of Ms. Anchan Preelert, who shared audio clips of Banpot's comments that appeared defamatory to the monarch. She was charged with 29 violations and sentenced to 43 years and 6 months in prison.

Section 112 is harsh and equivalent to a serious crime. Courts usually deny bail to those charges. Many defendants plead guilty due to delayed court proceedings, and the confession is the only way to reduce their criminal sentences.

Lèse-majesté in Thailand is commonly conducted in secret trials, and details of the charges are hardly revealed to the public. The interpretation of this Section is generally broad, which leads to chaotic disputations. Some defendants were prosecuted for commenting on the royal projects or the King's dogs.

Anyone can file a lèse-majesté complaint, and the police usually investigate all accusations since it is considered a danger to national security. After the coup, the junta granted authority to a military court to prosecute lèse-majesté, before the constitutional court was authorized to assume those trials on September 12, 2016.