Politics, World, Asia - Pacific

Thai junta slammed for latest lese-majeste charge

Human Rights Watch says use off charge to prosecute woman who didn’t actively condemn Facebook message 'a new low'

07.05.2016
Thai junta slammed for latest lese-majeste charge

Banghok

By Max Constant

BANGKOK

A rights group slammed the Thai junta's application of the country's lese-majeste law Saturday, describing its use to prosecute the mother of a student activist who didn’t actively condemn the content of a Facebook message as "a new low".

Patnaree Chankij, a 39-year-old widow and mother of three, was arrested and charged with lese-majeste Friday, because of her failure to condemn the private message.

“The Thai junta has sunk to a new low by charging an activist’s mother under the ‘insulting the monarchy’ law, which has been systematically abused to silence critics,” said Brad Adams, Asia director for New-York-based Human Rights Watch, in a statement released Saturday

“The arbitrary enforcement of the lese-majeste law against an activist’s mother is yet another example of Thailand’s blatant contempt of its human rights obligations."

Friday's message was sent by Burin Intin, a friend of Chankij's son, who was arrested last week under a similar lese-majeste charge.

In the message, Intin asks Chankij “not to criticize him for what he wrote”.

Chankij simply replied "ja" -- a polite way to say "yes" in the Thai language.

The short reply was considered as an absence of condemnation of Intin’s message by the Thai police.

Chankij, who has denied the charges, was refused bail and placed in detention Friday and will be brought to a military court Monday.

A demonstration in support of Chankij is planned for Saturday afternoon in Bangkok.

Chankij is the mother of Sirawith Seritiwat, nicknamed "Ja New’, a founder of the pro-democracy group Resistant Citizen.

Seritiwat, a tireless critic of the junta, has been arrested and detained numerous times, but still refuses to follow orders imposed by the military, which seized power in May 2014, overthrowing the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

Some analysts have suggested that that the new charge is a way to put pressure on Seritiwat, as the junta has previously used similar tactics.

In March, the military "visited" the sister of exiled academic Pavin Chachavalpongpan to ask her to put pressure on her brother to cancel a talk on the Thai monarchy at a British university.

Anond Nampa, a pro-democracy lawyer who has volunteered to assist Chankij, summarized the situation on his Facebook page Friday.

"The fact that someone sent you messages that may violate Section 112 [the lese-majeste section in the criminal code], and you saw them, yet did not stop or reprimand the sender, is equal to you participating in the offense,” he wrote.

“Are we really walking down this path?” he added.

Section 112 of the Thai criminal code punishes with jail terms between 3-15 years persons who “insult, defame or threaten the king, the queen, the heir, or the regent”.

In the last ten years, judges have tended to interpret the law broadly.

A man criticizing a 19th century king has been jailed, as has another who mocked on Facebook a dog belonging to the current King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Since the 2014 coup, military courts have charged 57 people with lese-majeste, with 44 charged for online commentary.

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