Bangkok, Paris, 5 November 2018: FIDH and its partner organization Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) today petitioned the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) to seek the release of lèse-majesté defendant Siraphop Kornaroot. Since August 2012, the WGAD has found the detention of seven other individuals detained under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (lèse-majesté) to be “arbitrary.”
Siraphop, 55, has been detained for more than four years and four months – the longest time for a person currently charged or serving a prison sentence under Article 112. Siraphop was arrested on 1 July 2014 in Bangkok and is currently incarcerated at the Bangkok Remand Prison. Since July 2014, the Bangkok Military Court has rejected Siraphop’s bail applications seven times, the most recent today, 5 November 2018. His trial before the Bangkok Military Court has been ongoing since 24 September 2014.
“The detention and prosecution of Siraphop Kornaroot violate his fundamental rights to liberty, freedom of expression, and a fair trial – all rights guaranteed by international treaties to which Thailand is a state party. It is very disturbing that after more than four years there is no end in sight for Siraphop’s trial and the military court, which should not try civilians in the first place, continues to deny him bail,” said FIDH Vice-President Adilur Rahman Khan.
Siraphop has been detained and prosecuted for the exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression. He was charged with violations of Article 112 of the Criminal Code and Articles 14(3) and 14(5) of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act in connection with three posts he had made online on 7 November 2009, 15 December 2013, and 22 January 2014. Police deemed these posts (which included a poem and two caricatures) to be offensive to the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away on 13 October 2016. Siraphop was held in pre-trial detention for the maximum period allowed by Thai law (84 days), before the start of his trial on 24 September 2014.
“The case of Siraphop shows that there are still many individuals who continue to languish in jail as a result of the abuse of lèse-majesté since the May 2014 military coup. Until Article 112 is reformed and brought into compliance with international law, the risk of arbitrary detentions and unfair prosecutions for lèse-majesté remains high,” said TLHR Head Yaowalak Anuphan.
Article 112 imposes jail terms for those who defame, insult, or threaten the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne, or the Regent. Persons found guilty of violating Article 112 face prison terms of three to 15 years for each count.
FIDH and TLHR call for the immediate and unconditional release of Siraphop and for all the charges against him to be dropped. FIDH and TLHR also urge the government to end the abuse of lèse-majesté and immediately and unconditionally release those detained or imprisoned under Article 112 for the mere exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression.
Since the 22 May 2014 coup, at least 127 people have been arrested for violating Article 112. Fifty-seven of them have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 35 years. At the time of the military takeover, there were six individuals behind bars on lèse-majesté charges.
In the last several years, many UN bodies have repeatedly expressed their concern over the prosecutions, the prolonged detentions, and the lengthy prison sentences under Article 112. They have called for the amendment of Article 112 and the release of lèse-majesté detainees, emphasizing that the deprivation of liberty stemming from the enforcement of lèse-majesté is inconsistent with Thailand’s obligations under international law with regard to the right to freedom of opinion and expression.