Thai PM threatens to use 'all laws' against pro-democracy protesters

Comments prompt concern that this could include the use of lese-majesty that bans criticism of the monarchy

The Thai prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, has threatened to use “all laws, all articles” to take action against pro-democracy protesters, prompting fears that the kingdom’s harsh lese-majesty law could be used against individuals.

The law shields Thailand’s powerful royal family from criticism with one of the world’s strictest defamation criteria, under which anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent” can face up to 15 years on each charge.

Prayuth said earlier this year that it was not being used for the moment, at the request of the king.

Over recent months, however, the authorities have struggled to control a new student-led movement that has held rallies across the country calling for democratic reforms.

Protest leaders have shocked many by demanding that the power of the monarchy should be curbed, and that the institution should be accountable and transparent. They are also calling for the resignation of Prayuth, a former army general who first came to power in the 2014 coup.

The announcement came in a statement a day after at least 10,000 protesters gathered at a major intersection in Bangkok, to condemn the police for using chemical-laced water cannon and teargas against them at a protest this week.

Demonstrators chanted “slaves of tyranny” and “our taxes” and threw paint at the Thai police headquarters. Graffiti fiercely critical the king, and in some cases mocking his personal life, was sprayed in the surrounding area.

“The situation is not improving at there is a risk of escalation to more violence. If not addressed, it could damage the country and the beloved monarchy,” Prayuth said in a statement.

“The government will intensify its actions and use all laws, all articles, to take action against protesters who broke the law.”

The announcement did not specify whether this included Article 112 of the penal code, which forbids insulting the monarchy.

At least 84 people have faced various other charges for taking part in the protests. Last month, Amnesty International accused the authorities of using “vague, overly restrictive laws to harass and silence people”.

Though the lese-majesty law has not been used against those who have taken part in the recent demonstrations, people have been charged with sedition, which carries a seven-year sentence.

Two people have also been accused of attempted violence against the queen after her motorcade was heckled. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, or, a possible death sentence if her life is thought to have been threatened.

Contributor

Rebecca Ratcliffe in Bangkok

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Thai protesters call for reform of monarchy and general strike
Thousands march to demand curbs on the power and budget of the royal family

Rebecca Ratcliffe in Bangkok

20, Sep, 2020 @1:42 PM

Thai troops deployed against Bangkok protesters

Deputy PM resigns after two killed and nearly 400 injured in clashes as fury mounts in Thai capital

Jenny Percival, Matthew Weaver and agencies

07, Oct, 2008 @11:54 AM

Article image
Thai police fire water cannon at pro-democracy protesters
Crowds attempt to hand-deliver letters urging reform of the country’s monarchy

Rebecca Ratcliffe South-east Asia correspondent

08, Nov, 2020 @4:10 PM

Article image
10,000 pro-democracy protesters march on Thai police HQ
Building sprayed with paint and water pistols to protest against police use of tear gas and water cannon

Rebecca Ratcliffe and Thitipol Panyalimpanun in Bangkok

18, Nov, 2020 @6:14 PM

Article image
Thai pro-democracy protesters confront royal visit to Bangkok
People call for reforms to monarchy and resignation of prime minister during king’s visit

Rebecca Ratcliffe and Veena Thoopkrajae in Bangkok

14, Oct, 2020 @5:13 PM

Article image
Thai protesters demand criminal charges against deputy PM
Suthep Thaugsuban set to hear complaints against him at justice ministry over order to launch army crackdown on protests

Ben Doherty in Bangkok

10, May, 2010 @5:31 PM

Thai PM plans to relax laws against casinos

Five new gambling centres to be built in holiday hotspots to compete for tourists' cash

Ian MacKinnon in Bangkok

05, Mar, 2008 @12:07 AM

Thai army chief resists use of force against protesters

General opts for softly-softly approach after embattled PM declares state of emergency in response to violent clashes

Ian MacKinnon in Bangkok

02, Sep, 2008 @1:04 PM

Thai PM flees angry protesters

New leader cornered for second time in fortnight as anti-government violence paralyses Bangkok

Ian MacKinnon in Bangkok

22, Oct, 2008 @11:01 PM

Thai protesters force parliament shutdown

Thousands of anti-government demonstrators in 'final showdown' to oust what they see as a corrupt administration

Associated Press

24, Nov, 2008 @10:25 AM