Friday, 12 February 2021

Joint Statement on Thailand’s use of Draconian Laws

Draconian laws have long been used in Thailand to subdue the rights of people and conduct human rights violations. Despite Thailand’s cycling between authoritarian regimes and democratic regimes since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, these laws have been used throughout. Moreover, Thailand’s penal code is filled with draconian laws which particular regimes have successfully strengthened. The major draconian laws that have been used by the authorities in Thailand include Article 112 (Lese Majeste), Article 116 (Sedition), and the 2017 Computer Crimes Act. The latter of which had been bolstered by the military junta (NCPO) to crackdown more heavily on descent. It is imperative that the global community condemn these draconian laws and the heavy hand with which they have been applied. The use of these laws does not meet international standards and it is important for the international community to call on Thailand to adhere to its international obligations. 

Lese Majeste charges carry a sentence of between 3-15 years for every count. Sedition carries a sentence of up to 7 years. Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act provides the authorities sweeping powers to crackdown on people’s free expression. These laws work in concert to create an atmosphere of fear, where people have to self-censor and people are imprisoned or worse for the smallest shows of expression and dissent. They have in their long existence been used to put people away and have even forced Thai citizens. It is in this atmosphere that the political elite can act with impunity that led to too many instances of tragedy and has seen Thailand becoming one of the most unequal societies in the world. Moreover, these laws are used to hamper democratic transitions as the status quo has these tools to assert themselves.

Last year saw the significant escalation of youth-led protests around Thailand, which have now galvanized the nation with calls for a number of reforms. These include democratic, educational and monarchical reforms. With the escalation from protestors, the authorities have increased their usage of undemocratic and non-rights respecting means from suppressing the protestors. This includes the mobilization of riot police, the use of water cannons and tear gas, as well as protestor intimidation. Equally distressing is the increased use of judicial bullying and these draconian laws. The authorities’ escalation involved the mass arrest of protestors, a clear violation of so many individuals’ right to free expression and peaceful protest. Since we have seen the return of the use of the Lese Majeste after a pause for 2 years and many protest leaders being charged with various counts of these draconian laws. Those charged with Lese Majeste have now reached at least 58 people. The tragedy of the use of these laws is underscored by how pro-government counter-protestors have not received the same treatment. These laws are not applied impartially. At the root of these issues, unfair laws are being applied unfairly and this is damaging Thailand’s societally and economically. Moreover, these laws prohibit so many in Thailand from exercising their human rights and this needs to change. 

We condemn the Thai government’s continued use of draconian laws on its people. These laws are unjust and have been applied unjustly for far too long. The atmosphere of fear needs to seize and the Thai people must be able to live in a society where there are checks and balances and their rights are respected. We call on the global community to condemn Thailand’s use of these laws and to hold Thailand accountable for its human rights abuses. 


Thailand Human Rights Campaign UK

Stiftung Asienhaus - Germany

Universal Peace Federation Myanmar - Myanma (Burma)

Kanet Kongsaiya - Norway

Tang Lolo - Taiwan

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