Dear Representative Jamie Raskin,
On behalf of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights, I want to thank you so much for introducing H. Res 349, which calls for the “global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws.” We are a nonprofit human rights organization consisting of mostly Thai Americans, but also some non-Thai Americans, dedicated to preventing human rights abuses in Thailand and helping the victims of human rights abuses. Many of our members are victims of Thailand’s barbaric lese majeste law, which is in fact an anti-blasphemy law.
According to the Thai Constitution, “The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action.” Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code prescribes a sentence of 3 to 15 years for EACH lese majeste statement.
Last month a Thai human rights lawyer Prawet Prapanukul, who specializes in defending victims of Thailand’s lese majeste, was charged with 10 counts of lese majeste that could translate into a 150 year sentence. A priority case for our organization is that of Jatupat Boonpatararaksa, known as Pai Dao Din, a 25 year-old young man who has been in jail since Christmas simply for sharing a mainstream news article about Thailand’s new King Vajiralongkorn on facebook. Unless Thailand can be convinced to drop this case, he will probably be convicted and have to serve 3 to 15 years for pushing share on a news article, with no further comment! The reason he was accused rather than any of the 1,000s of other Thais who also shared the article is without a doubt the fact that he is a nonviolent human rights and prodemocracy activist in the style of a Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King. In fact, last month Jatupat Boonpatararaska (Pai Dao Din) received the 2017 Gwangju Human Rights Award from a South Korean foundation – or rather his heartbroken parents flew to South Korea to pick it up on his behalf.
Thailand is sliding back towards absolute monarchy and the current king is himself a serious human rights violator, cruel and vindictive, who would no doubt himself be in jail right now if not for the immunity offered by the lese majeste law. Beyond the tragedy of the 100 plus people in jail right now for lese majeste, is the tragedy of the thousands driven from their home country by lese majeste accusations, the several each year who are assassinated by ultra-royalist vigilantes exactly like the KKK, and an entire population frightened into silence unable to discuss their political future.
Freedom of speech is an international human right. As you know, Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights states “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Many of my Thai American friends have been victims of this horrible law, driven from their homeland and unable to ever return, and their families back in Thailand are harassed if they speak out against the law. Others I know are being hunted and their lives are in danger at this very moment. We are so thankful that you have brought this overlooked issue to the attention of the House of Representatives. Please let us know how we can support you in your effort.
With sincere gratitude,
Executive Director of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights
Thai Alliance for Human Rights
Pittsburgh, PA 15203