The decision by Thailand’s Constitutional Court to rule that Article 112 of the Criminal Code - the ‘lese majeste law’ - is a devastating blow to freedom of expression and internet freedom in Thailand and contradicts the constitution’s mandate to protect human rights. The Thai government has used Article 112 of the Criminal Code (Lèse Majesté) – which criminalizes defamation of the royal family – to curtail the space for diverse political opinions and freedom of expression online and offline.
Freedom House condemns the verdict on May 30 sentencing Thai webmaster, Chiranuch (Jiew) Premchaiporn to an eight-month suspended prison sentence and to pay a fine of 20,000 Thai Baht ($630) for comments posted by visitors to her online forum that were deemed “offensive” to the monarchy. She was convicted under the Computer-Related Crime Act (CCA), which holds internet service and content providers criminally liable for content they host or transmit. The verdict is yet another chilling indicator of the ever-shrinking space for free expression in Thailand.
Almost a year ago, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt declared before the UN Human Rights Council that the “same rights that people have offline … must also be protected online.” This was the underlying theme of a groundbreaking May 2011 report by UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Frank La Rue. The report, which was endorsed by 41 governments, detailed how established human rights principles apply to the internet and made recommendations for putting these principles into practice. After a year of inaction, the time has come for a concerted, collective effort by democratic countries to carry out the recommendations of the La Rue report.
Lauren Galacia manages the Asia program. Prior to joining Freedom House, she oversaw the development and implementation of citizen engagement programs throughout Asia and Eurasia, with a focus on Thailand and Burma.