Thai lese majeste law used properly

With reference to the column titled “Thai military risks weakening the monarchy” by Pavin Chachavalpongpun published in the Jan. 22 issue, I wish to clarify some points as follows.

First, the monarchy has been and always remains above politics. Attempts to politicize the monarchy must be resisted, especially if one side or another tries to drag the monarchy into the political fray. Prior to May 22, 2014, the prolonged political deadlock and the administrative paralysis have been devastating to Thailand in terms of instability, protracted conflicts and social divisiveness.

Hence, the main purpose of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to take control of national administration were to provide a cooling-off period for all sides, and to prevent further violence, restore stability, as well as to put the country back on track toward full democracy. In this regard, the notion of certain parties about any association between the monarchy and the operation of the NCPO is completely misleading and totally out of context.

Second, it must be noted that the lese majeste law is part of Thailand’s Criminal Code, giving protection to the rights or reputations of the king, the queen, the heir apparent, or the regent in a similar way libel law does for commoners.

It is not aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression nor the legitimate exercise of academic freedom, including debates about the monarchy as an institution. Similar protection is also provided for the king and the queen, the heir apparent of other states, as well as the official representatives thereof as stated in article 133-134 of Thailand’s Criminal Code.

This ruling has been enshrined in all of Thailand’s recent constitutions. Therefore, to claim that the current government has tightened up its measures against lese majeste charges as the cases become more politicized is an overstatement of the current situation.

It should also be taken into consideration that a number of cases currently being pursued by the concerned authorities and reported regularly by the media are actually ongoing cases from previous governments.

Lastly, I would like to reiterate the undeniable fact that the Thai monarchy is a pillar of stability in Thailand. The Thai sense of identity is closely linked to the institution, which dates back more than 700 years. The institution, to this day, continues to play a unifying role and symbolizes the unity of the Thai communities. Enacting appropriate legislation to protect the highly revered institution is a common practice in Thailand as in other nations.

SEK WANNAMETHEE
DIRECTOR-GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION OF THAILAND’S MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.