Yingluck on Thailand’s lese majeste law
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Yingluck on Thailand’s lese majeste law

In an interview with The Independent, Yingluck is asked about lese majeste law. Key excerpts:

I think this issue is a big sensitive issue. We need to have someone specialised to discuss [this],” she said. “We don’t want people to use lese-majesty too often. We don’t want Thai people to misuse this law.”

She also suggested that the current constitution – drawn up following the 2006 coup which forced her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, from office – could be changed after a consultation process.

“We shall ask which version people want. We have to do public hearings for this issue,” she said. “We will not discuss this at the beginning. The first priority for me is solving economic problems.”

[United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship chairwoman] Tida [Tawornseth] said activists also wanted to rewrite the constitution and examine the lese-majesty law.

We want to have a commission and representatives study and discuss the new constitution,” she said. “It’s not just lese-majesty. That is one of the points.”

BP: Some comments:

1. If BP’s memory serves BP correctly, the last time that lese majeste law was amended was in the 1970s by a military/military-installed government so don’t expect any amendments immediately because to do so will just invoke Thaksin-wants-to-overthrow-the-monarchy-argument.

2. Yingluck’s answer is quite vague and BP is not surprised that she will hand it over to a committee to deal with (that is how BP interprets “someone specialized to discuss”) and this seems roughly in line for the process that Tida wants.  Will this be a parliamentary committee, the job of the new committee, the National Human Rights Commission, or will the Kanit committee be tasked with looking into this too?

3. So you can see an outline, as with the amnesty issue, it will be the economy first and so you have 6-12 months before the committee reports back with options. One possible problem for this process is if someone is arrested/multiple people are arrested under lese majeste law or Computer Crimes Act in the meantime, how will Yingluck and the government respond? What if someone previously arrested in a high-profile case* goes on trial?

4. Also, will the ICT Minister do with all the task forces set up to find those who make comments deemed offensive to the monarchy online? Will they be disbanded? Maybe hard to do now without Thaksin-wants-to-overthrow-the-monarchy-argument, but depending on who becomes ICT Minister** they maybe gradually cut back on such programs after the budget. As long as 3 doesn’t happen, the government may be able to get away with this in the short-term. Many reds will be wanting progress, the military and the bureaucracy will be resisting so there is a difficult balancing act which could easily be knocked in a direction by a case/arrest.

*There are dozens of ongoing cases all the time which we never hear back/no one knows about so there will be certainly be cases between now and say next year.

**Candidates who seem sensible seem to turn into let’s-close-down-the-internet types very quickly.