Article 112: “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”
The Consitution: “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.”
Please note that any person may file a Lèse majesté complaint against anyone, and the authorities are obliged to investigate.
On 15 June 2020, General Prayut Chan-o-cha told the nation that the king, in his compassion, has said not to enforce Article 112 anymore.
The announcement provides a double relief:
Firstly, according to iLaw, since the 2014 military coup, there have been at least 91 cases of Article 112 in Thailand.
In 2017, the president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), President Dimitris Christopoulos said:
“In less than three years, the military junta has generated a surge in the number of political prisoners detained under Lèse majesté by abusing a draconian law that is inconsistent with Thailand’s international obligations.”
The military junta was General Prayut’s dictatorship government, which ruled Thailand from 2014 to 2019.
Secondly, it is because anyone can file Lèse majesté complaints against anybody over just about anything that may slightly (or even imaginarily) taint the image of the monarchy.
In 2015, BBC’s Jonathan Head compiled a list of complaints and charges regarding Article 112 violation, which includes:
“Saying anything negative about the monarchy to passengers in a car.”
“‘Liking’ anything critical of the monarchy on Facebook.”
“Referring to anything from Thailand’s history that could be construed as damaging to the monarchy’s image.”
“Failing to take down offending messages from a website.”
But don’t feel too relieved.
The law is but a tool to wield power, whether justly or unjustly.
Those in power often use Article 112 as a political tool to intimidate, silence and punish the people. Simply replace one tool with another, and we have the Computer Crime Act.
Under an unjust regime, the purpose is still the same: to intimidate, silence and punish the people.
This phrase is one that General Prayut often said, “We have laws for everything.” It is but a reminder, whatever we the people say or do, he has the tools in his hand to punish us, whenever he wants to do so.
Our words and deeds are at his mercy.
On 19 February 2020, a Twitter user by the name of นิรนาม (Niranam) was arrested by the authorities, prompting the hashtag #saveนิรนาม to trend.
According to iLaw, Niranam is known to post messages critical of the monarchy. The authorities did not charge him with Article 112. They charged him with the Computer Crime Act, Article 14.
Article 14 gives the government the power to prosecute content deemed as “false,” “distorted” or “partially distorted.” The penalty is up to five years imprisonment and a fine of no more than 1000,000 baht.
Article 16 gives the court the power to remove from the internet and delete from the computer system any content deemed harmful or causing damage to the public.
Article 20 gives the court the power to remove from the internet and delete from the computer system content that is legal but deemed to be against public order or the good morals of the people.
The keyword here is “deem,” which means it’s a matter of interpretation. Who’s in charge of interpreting? The Anti-Fake News Center under the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society.
On 16 December 2016, the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly unanimously adopted the Computer Crime Act. It’s a law passed by a dictatorship.
The law is but a tool. The government may wield it justly or unjustly. Presently, there’s less usage of Article 112, but that’s because the Computer Crime Act does a similar job and casts an even wider net.
On the surface, it’s less controversial, as the law seemingly takes the monarchy out of the equation. But in reality, they both are tools for an unjust government to intimidate, silence and punish people who dare to think and speak differently.