Thai political fault line: Divided opinions on royal defamation regulation forward of election

As Thailand’s basic election approaches this Sunday, a series of TikTok movies featuring prime ministerial candidates answering questions about controversial subjects has gone viral. Unheard of raised during the electoral marketing campaign embrace the legalization of e-cigarettes, local alcohol trade deregulation, sex work decriminalization, and amending the country’s strict royal defamation regulation.
The royal defamation law, known as Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, is a sensitive subject in Thai society, as it stipulates that those who defame, insult, or threaten the king, queen, heir-apparent, or regent might face between three and fifteen years in jail. Increased public curiosity in Section 112 has led to it changing into a hot matter in political debates in the lead-up to the election.
Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher on Thailand from Human Rights Watch, stated that the issue’s frequent presence in political discussions originated from the pro-democracy demonstrations that began three years ago, calling for monarchy reform. The 2020 protests, led predominantly by young Thais, made calls for similar to decreasing the federal government finances for the monarchy and abolishing the royal defamation legislation.
Opinions on the regulation amongst politicians fall into three primary classes. Some prime ministerial candidates—including incumbent Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha—support sustaining the established order. Other candidates, like Pita Limjaroenrat from the Move Forward Party, back amendments to the regulation, together with decreasing penalties and permitting only the Royal Household Bureau to press costs. A third point of view, represented by the Commoners’ Party, calls for the law’s abolishment, as they imagine it has been weaponized to silence strange citizens.
A whole of 1,902 individuals have been prosecuted for becoming a member of demonstrations or expressing political opinions between July 2020 and April 2023, in accordance with data from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR). Of these prosecutions, 242 circumstances involve accusations of lese-majeste.
Sunai Phasuk believes that the persisting relevance of the youth protests and their demands for monarchy reform illustrates the lasting influence of the demonstrations. He notes that Thai society is now clearly divided between those that want to preserve the monarchy’s established order and people looking for reform. Candidates on both sides have gained help due to their positions on the difficulty reports Channel News Asia..

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