The United Nations human rights office, in a statement on Friday, has expressed grave concerns over Thailand’s detentions of democracy activists, including a minor of 16 years, under its royal defamation laws.
In recent weeks, the Thai government have charged at least 35 protesters under Article 112 – the lèse majesté provision of the country’s criminal code, for calling for democracy and reform of the monarchy.
The offence carries sentences of between three and 15 years’ imprisonment for defaming, insulting or threatening the country’s royal family.
“We are deeply troubled by the move by Thai authorities to charge at least 35 protesters in recent weeks, including a 16-year old student protester, under Article 112 – the lèse majesté provision of Thailand’s criminal code,” the UN Human Rights Committee said in a statement.
The activists are facing charges for headlining recent demonstrations demanding reforms to the monarchy and more scrutiny of the royal family’s financial arrangements.
The spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that charges had also been filed against protesters for sedition and computer crimes offences.
“We call on the Government of Thailand to stop the repeated use of such serious criminal charges against individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a news briefing in Geneva.
The spokeswoman said people should be able to exercise these rights without fear of reprisals.
The office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged Thailand to change the lèse majesté law to bring it in line with the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
The Thai government did not immediately comment when contacted by Reuters, saying it needed to review the rights office’s statement first.
Youth-led protests began in July to call for the removal of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former military leader, and for the drafting of a new constitution.
They later called for reforms to the monarchy – seeking the king to be more clearly accountable under the constitution and the reversal of changes that gave him control of royal finances and some army units among other demands. (Source: CNA)