Ex-PM may be charged with offending king

BBC News

Thaksin faces lese majeste claims

Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 March 2007, 12:17 GMT


Ex PM Thaksin Shinawatra

Mr Thaksin was ousted in a coup on 19 September


Thai police have recommended that former PM Thaksin Shinawatra is charged on three counts of insulting the king.

Police chief Sereepisut Taemeeyaves said he was also investigating several possible lese majeste cases, including a recent TV interview of Mr Thaksin.

The former Thai leader was ousted in a military coup last September.

The general who led the coup, Sonthi Boonyaratglin, has
confirmed that the authorities still plan to hold elections by the end
of this year.

In a nationally televised press conference on Tuesday,
to mark the six-month anniversary of the takeover, he said: “We will
have free and fair elections on schedule.”

The military has long promised to draft a new
constitution, hold a referendum on the document and then hold general elections before the end of the year.

But critics have voiced doubts about whether all this is possible in the timescale.

The military junta and its government, led by Prime
Minister Surayud Chulanont, have also been criticised for not finding
more definite evidence to prosecute Mr Thaksin over alleged corruption – one of the main reasons given for the coup.

“I am fully aware that people are waiting for the
prosecution of wrongdoers, but we have to be fair to all parties,” Mr
Sonthi told reporters on Tuesday.

More evidence

These latest allegations of lese majeste, which police
have recommended are taken up by prosecutors, relate to alleged
offensive remarks about the country’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

They stem from comments Mr Thaksin is said to have made
to a group of taxi drivers, his weekly national radio address, and an
incident when his supporters waved “Long Live the King” flags during
his visit.

The three charges that have already been recommended to
prosecutors could theoretically put him in jail for 45 years, police
have said.

Another three cases are also being reportedly looked into – including a TV interview of Mr Thaksin on CNN earlier this year.

“The prosecutors want us to provide them with more
evidence on some of the cases before they decide whether to charge
Thaksin in court,” police chief Sereepisut told Reuters news agency.

NEWS.com.au

The Daily Telegraph - Home

From correspondents in Bangkok
March 20, 2007 05:43pm

THAI police have recommended ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra be
charged with three counts of lese majeste which could put him him in
jail for 45 years, police chief Sereepisut Taemeeyaves said today.

The recommendation to public prosecutors was under consideration, he told a
news conference marking six months since Mr Thaksin was ousted in a
bloodless coup.

“The prosecutors want us to provide them more evidence on some of
the cases before they decide whether to charge Thaksin in court,” Mr
Sereepisut said.

The three potential charges of offending revered King Bhumibol
Adulyadej stemmed from remarks to a group of taxi drivers, his weekly
national radio address, and his supporters waving Thai flags saying
“Long Live His Majesty”.

Mr Sereepisut and Attorney-General Patchara Utithamdamrong declined
to give more details, citing the sensitivity of cases involving the
world’s longest reigning monarch who has exalted status in Thailand.

“The National Police Bureau and the Attorney-General’s Office agree
that any political activities or any political conflicts must not drag
down the monarchy,” Mr Patchara said without saying how long it would
take the prosecutors to decide.

A charge of lese majeste carries a penalty of three to 15 years in
jail in Thailand, one of the few countries that prosecutes strictly
anything deemed to demean the royal family.

Few other countries have lese majeste on the books and prosecutions are infrequent.

Law experts say a major problem is that the law is vague and almost
anyone can level an accusation of lese majeste, thereby triggering a
police investigation, allowing political opponents to accuse each other
of offending the monarch.

Last year, Mr Thaksin and his enemies hurled scores of lese majeste
accusations at each other. Mr Thaksin’s alleged disrespect for the
monarchy was one of the reasons for the coup.

FT Home

Thai army aim to bar ex-PM from politics

By Amy Kazmin in Bangkok
Published: March 20 2007 10:28 | Last updated: March 20 2007 10:28

Thai
police have recommended that Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted former
prime minister, be prosecuted for lese-majeste – or offending the
dignity of the country’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej – a serious
criminal charge that could preclude him from ever returning to Thai
political life.

The recommendation comes as the military-installed government struggles
to charge Mr Thaksin, who is now in exile, with any serious case of
corruption, even though the military cited widespread graft as one of
the excuses for the September coup that ousted Mr Thaksin from power.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Sereepisut Taemeeyaves, the police
chief, said police believed Mr Thaksin committed lese-majeste on at
least three occasions, including in remarks to taxi drivers, in a
national radio broadcast, and in comments to supporters waving flags
saying “Long Live His Majesty.”

But given the sensitivity of cases
involving the monarchy, the police chief declined to elaborate. He said
public prosecutors were still considering whether to proceed with the
charges, which would carry a combined jail sentence of up to 45 years
if Mr Thaksin were convicted on three counts.

Giles Ungpakorn, a
Chulalongkorn University political science lecturer and vocal critic of
the coup, said prosecuting Mr Thaksin for lese-majeste “sounds like
utter desperation” by the coup leaders, as they seek to prevent the
former premier from returning to politics.

“Thaksin ought to face
charges of human rights abuses in the war on drugs, and the south, but
then the police and the army would also be involved,” Mr Giles said.
“He could also face charges of corruption if they felt he had actually
broken the law.”

Mr Giles said a prosecution of Mr Thaksin, who
was still popular among rural voters when the military overthrew his
administration, could fuel a public debate on the merits of retaining
the strict lese-majeste law in a modern democracy.

Thai law
allows the criminal prosecution of anyone making any comment deemed
demeaning to the royal family or the monarchy, and any Thai can level a
lese-majeste accusation, forcing police to investigate, regardless of
whether the palace supports such a prosecution.

The threat of
lese-majeste prosecution has long stifled public discussion or debate
about the activities and role of the monarchy, even during the recent
military coup, which many Thais believe had palace backing. The law has
also been used as an effective political weapon, with enemies hurling
lese-majeste allegations against each other, especially during the
political crisis over the last year.

Even King Bhumibol, revered
by the Thai public, has expressed public discomfort with the laws. In
his annual birthday speech in 2005 years ago, he said no one should be
above criticism – not even himself.

“Actually, I must also be
criticised. I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I do wrong
because then I know,” he said. “If you say the King cannot be
criticised, it means the King is not human.”

A Swiss man, jailed
since December, currently faces 75 years in prison after pleading
guilty this month to five-counts of lese-majeste for spray-painting
public images of the King.

Logo
March 20th, 2007
Nicholas Farrelly

Will Thaksin join Jufer on lèse majesté charges?

The mechanics of lèse majesté in Thailand are an ongoing interest of many New Mandala readers.  It was – I probably need not remind you – only last week that Olivier Jufer’s trial for vandalising portraits of the King drew global media to the Chiang Mai provincial court. 

Today, there is news
that Thai police have “recommended” that former Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra be charged with three lèse majesté offences.  The details
(extracted from a recent report) follow:

Thai police have recommended ousted Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatra be charged with three counts of lese majeste which
could put him him in jail for 45 years, police chief Sereepisut
Taemeeyaves said today.

The recommendation to public prosecutors was under
consideration, he told a news conference marking six months since Mr
Thaksin was ousted in a bloodless coup.

“The prosecutors want us to provide them more evidence
on some of the cases before they decide whether to charge Thaksin in
court,” Mr Sereepisut said.

The three potential charges of offending revered King
Bhumibol Adulyadej stemmed from remarks to a group of taxi drivers, his
weekly national radio address, and his supporters waving Thai flags
saying “Long Live His Majesty”.

Mr Sereepisut and Attorney-General Patchara
Utithamdamrong declined to give more details, citing the sensitivity of
cases involving the world’s longest reigning monarch who has exalted
status in Thailand.

Law experts say a major problem is that the law is vague
and almost anyone can level an accusation of lese majeste, thereby
triggering a police investigation, allowing political opponents to
accuse each other of offending the monarch.

Last year, Mr Thaksin and his enemies hurled scores of
lese majeste accusations at each other. Mr Thaksin’s alleged disrespect
for the monarchy was one of the reasons for the coup.    

Entry Filed under: Thailand, Thaksin, Surayud regime

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1.

    Jon Fernquest  |  March 20th, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    IMHO the best way to show respect for HMK is to wear a yellow shirt (I wear mine on the weekends) and be silent.

    Maybe trying to invoke HMK for one’s own selfish purposes
    (especially with lots of self-righteousness) should be considered an
    act of disrespect and an act of lese majeste.

    P.S. I sure hope no one invokes lese majeste against me for suggesting this.

  • 2.

    Srithanonchai  |  March 21st, 2007 at 12:26 am

    I
    still can’t help feeling somewhat strange when seing farang wearing
    yellow t-shirts… If somebody HAS respect for the king, why is it
    necessary to demonstrate it in one’s clothing? More importantly, from
    the Thai perspective, yellow shirts do NOT express respect, but loyalty.

    As for lese majeste — should not actually the junta be charged with
    this? After all, the king himself had not only issued a royal decree
    for an election to be held on October 15. Moreover, in an unprecedented
    gesture, he had unequivocally expressed his political will in a
    handwritten phratchakrasae (royal message) to Thaksin, attached to the
    royal decree. In this message, the king said that he had signed the
    amended decree because he wanted the nation swiftly to return to peace
    and order. In addition, he wanted the election to proceed in a truly
    orderly, clean and fair manner.

    So, did the coup of September 19 not contradict what the king
    himself had set out for the country? And does the coup therefore not
    constitute a direct criticism of and counter action to the king’s
    decision? So, perhaps, Sonthi could join Thaksin and Jufer?

  • 3.

    Bangkok Pundit  |  March 21st, 2007 at 4:24 am

    Srithanonchai,
    wasn’t’ this one of the reasons that Sulak was charged with lese
    majeste after the 1991 coup as he said that the coup itself was lese
    majeste

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