May 4, 2017
Dear Ambassador and Royal Thai Embassy Officials,
Sawadee ka. My name is Ann Norman, Executive Director of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights, an alliance of mostly Thais based in the United States. Our alliance wrote to you previously about the injustice done to law student and human rights and pro-democracy activist Pai Daodin, or Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, who is in jail, charged with lese majesty (insulting royalty) and facing a possible 3 to 15 year sentence merely for sharing a mainstream news article about King Vajiralongkorn on Facebook.
Now, last Tuesday, May 3, six more people (all in one day!) were charged just for sharing something on Facebook, in this case a post by Somsak Jeamteerasakul. One of those people, Prawet Praphanukul was charged 10 times, meaning his sentence could possibly be 150 years. What is even more outrageous is that Prawet Praphanukul, similar to Pai, is a lawyer and human rights activist, who helps victims of the lese majesty law. This is a shocking, further escalation in the use of the lese majesty law. Never before have 6 people been charged in one day, and never before has one person been charged 10 times. And we can see by recent cases how the definition of lese majesty has ballooned way beyond the original meaning of the law itself. This is highlighted by the fact that Prawet Praphanukal is a lawyer working in the area of lese majesty law who only recently stated that he understands the lese majesty law is careful not to cross that line. But simply sharing articles or posts written by others now constitutes lese majesty.
Furthermore, the topic of the posts shared seems to be the missing 1932 Revolution Plaque marking the end of absolute monarchy, which was replaced in the middle of the night by a plaque that says nothing about the Revolution and instead recommends loving the King. It is unreasonable for the Thai government to order people NOT to ask about or object to the sudden and mysterious disappearance of an important historical marker, which was significant to many as marking the starting point for Thai democracy. The Thai people feel that whoever stole the plaque is trying to rewrite Thai history and further attacking the foundations for future Thai democracy.
Most people in Thailand, have shared news articles about the royalty. Indeed most people in Thailand have said something negative about royals at some point in their lives. This means that everyone in Thailand must live in fear that at any moment they can be arbitrarily detained if they those in power find them a bother. Beyond the right of citizens not be subjected to arbitrary arrest, Thai people have a right to discuss their history and their future, even when that involves facts and opinions about the King, who very well may have ordered the removal of this historical marker. And if he did not order the removal of the marker, why is this topic so sensitive that it cannot be discussed without throwing people in jail?
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has raised the possibility that, in Thailand, the deprivation of liberty associated with the lese majesty law in violation of international law, may be so widespread and systemic as to constitute crimes against humanity. When 6 people are charged in one day, including one human rights lawyer who is charged with 10 counts of lese majesty, in order to frighten a whole population into silence while their historical monuments to democracy are destroyed, it does seem that sinister. And these 6 cases are in addition to the hundreds already in jail, and the thousands forced to flee the country, and the scores who have been extrajudicially murdered after lese majesty accusations. We ask the Thai government to immediately release Pai Daodin, the 6 people accused on Tuesday, and all the other lese majesty prisoners.
We beg the Thai government, please step back from this path to North Korean style oppression, repeal the lese majesty law, and open a democratic dialogue on how to move forward.
Ann Norman แอน นอร์มาน
Thai Alliance for Human Rights