In less than two years, the number of verdicts in lèse-majesté cases has reached 100, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Union for Civil Liberty (UCL), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) said today. Most of these cases were brought in connection with the defendants’ participation in pro-democracy demonstrations and political expression, including online posts.
On 31 October 2023, according to information compiled by TLHR, between 30 November 2021 and 30 October 2023, courts of first instance delivered verdicts in cases involving 100 defendants charged under Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code (lèse-majesté). Of these, 79 defendants were found guilty and 21 were acquitted, resulting in a 79% conviction rate. The longest prison sentence imposed during this period was 28 years
Between 24 November 2020 and 27 October 2023, at least 259 individuals — 20 of whom under the age of 18 — were charged under Article 112. Some of the prominent pro-democracy activists face prosecution in multiple cases of alleged lèse-majesté violations, which could result in prison terms of up to 300 years.
At least 16 individuals charged with lèse-majesté are currently detained: one awaiting trial; two children detained at the Children Observation and Protection Center; 10 appealing their cases; and three serving their prison sentences. Most of those who have been found guilty of lèse-majesté since November 2021 are not currently imprisoned because they were either granted bail pending appeal or had their prison sentences suspended.
FIDH, TLHR, UCL, and iLaw urge the Thai government to amend Article 112 to bring it into line with Thailand’s human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). We recall the remarks made by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on 6 April 2023, in the lead up to the 14 May 2023 general election, that Article 112 “is problematic in its enforcement,” and that it “needs to be reviewed so as to prevent it from being used as a political tool.” On a separate occasion, on 3 May 2023, Mr. Srettha stated that Article 112 should be amended.
FIDH, TLHR, UCL, and iLaw also reiterate their calls on the Thai government to reverse many of the previous administration’s repressive policies and actions, including by refraining from carrying out arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of individuals for the peaceful and legitimate exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression.