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  • Writer's pictureManushya Foundation

#Thailand • IT’S TIME TO TALK ABOUT THE LESE MAJESTE LAW • #Opinion by Pravit Rojanaphruk

"A year has passed since the students-led monarchy reform movement descended to the streets of Bangkok and beyond in large numbers. One year on, over 140 have been charged with #LeseMajeste crimes, or defaming the #monarchy. It’s punishable by a maximum imprisonment term of 15 years. Around half a dozen of them are currently being incarcerated as I type these words."

"As Thai journalists, as well as foreign correspondents in Thailand, the lese-majeste law continues to be the biggest impediment to a free press. Only journalists in chronic denial would say they can carry out critical coverage of the monarchy institution in Thailand despite the law. No, censorship and self-censorship are the norms, combined with self-denial or silence to due fears of repercussions or political expediency. As the Thai press watches more people slowly taken to prison under the law, they should bear in mind that we as journalists and media organizations and press associations have an obligation to honour in this unfolding repression of fundamental rights to free expression."

"To fellow Thai journalists I say: If not now then when? How many more have to be taken to prison or flee into life-long exile simply because they want to discuss the monarchy critically – something that’s taken for granted in the United Kingdom or Japan. The time is now, the Thai press, in general, is already a year, if not many many years, late."

"It’s time to muster fortitude and publicly say we need to publicly discuss the law and make it in line with the changing world now. Reduce the maximum imprisonment term, bar the general public from being able to file a lese majeste complaint and add into the law a stipulation that if criticism against the monarchy if conducted with good intention for the public interests, it is not a crime. And more. These can be a good start and a compromise." said Pravit Rojanaphruk, Thai journalist and author.

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