By Afnan Waekamay
Ravisara “Dear” Eksgool is one of 24 (and still counting) pro-democracy activists summoned by the authorities over Section 112, the lese majeste law. She’s a graduate of Chulalongkorn University, majoring in German.
“I calculated the risk. I accepted the risk,” said the 25-year-old over a phone interview with Thisrupt.
The reading of an open letter on monarchy reform
On the evening of 26 October, at the march to the German Embassy, the pro-democracy protestors unfurled the banner that read “Reform the Monarchy Institution.” Key activists read out an open letter on monarchy reform.
Ravisara participated by reading out the open letter in the German language. The letter was also read out in Thai and English.
“When I was younger, I wasn’t involved in politics. But as I grew older, I see how there’s a lack of opportunities in Thailand for young people,” said Ravisara.
“Then, I started to join the protests.”
Ahead of the 26 October rally at the German Embassy, she saw on Twitter an announcement looking for a German speaker to read the open letter. She volunteered.
The answering of the police summons
On 4 December, she received a summons from the Royal Thai Police over two charges, Section 116 (sedition) and Section 112 (lese majeste), carrying seven and 15 years maximum imprisonment per count.
“But before the summons, a police officer contacted me on social media. He wanted to talk about the protests. I said I wasn’t comfortable talking. He then disappeared,” said Ravisara.
On 9 December, she went to the Thungmahamek Police Station to hear the charges.
“It took quite a while. I don’t know why. I’m not a protest leader. I’ve never committed any crime. I’m just a protestor.”
Fundamental problems with Thailand’s lese majeste
The suddenly increased usage of Section 112 has once again brought Thailand’s most infamous law into the center of public discussion.
In a seminar on 10 December, the Progressive Movement’s Piyabutr Saengkanokkul outlined six fundamental problems about Thailand’s lese majeste law:
- Section 112 is interpreted as a severe offense. In the past, the court would not grant bail even though the head of state’s insult or defamation has nothing to do with state security.
- The punishment is too severe. Before the 6 October 1976 military coup, the penalty was seven years maximum imprisonment. Now it’s 15 years maximum.
- Unlike normal libel or defamation laws, there is no exception in Section 112 and no exception in the punishment, not even when it’s an honest criticism for the public good.
- Anyone can file Section 112 charges. But in customary laws, the accuser must be the injured party. Therefore, the law can be abused, and almost every time, the police have to file charges because it’s Section 112.
- The interpretation of the law is problematic. For example, in the past, the court has interpreted that criticism of King Rama 4 is also a Section 112 offense. The law also covers royal family members and even a royal pet dog.
- Despite its content and usage, the court insisted that Section 112 is not unconstitutional.