Royal Defamation Reform Remains Untouchable Topic, Survey Finds

Suwat Liptapanlop of Chart Pattana Party rallies today in Sakon Nakhon province.
Suwat Liptapanlop of Chart Pattana Party rallies today in Sakon Nakhon province.

BANGKOK — No major political party has a policy to amend the controversial lese majeste law, an international human rights organization revealed Thursday.

None of 32 political parties who responded to 15 multiple-choice questions from the International Federation for Human Rights said they would try to amend the law, according to the survey’s findings.

Although many significant and new influential parties participated, the Paris-based federation got no response from three of the largest – the pro-junta Palang Pracharat Party, pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai and pragmatic Bhumjathai.

“Bhumjaithai and Phalang Pracharat made clear that they did not want to participate from the outright,” the federation’s regional director, Andrea Giorgetta, said Thursday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand. “As for Pheu Thai, we waited until the last minute but it never came.”.

The Democrat, Action Coalition for Thailand, Chart Thai Pattana and Future Forward parties took no stance when asked what measures would it take on Article 112 of the Criminal Code, aka the lese majeste law, which effectively makes any action deemed a slight against the monarchy a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Speaking at a panel discussion of the findings, Yingcheep Atchanont of legal reform group iLaw said even self-styled progressives such as Future Forward won’t touch the law because they are avoiding potential distractions to their more immediate goal of denying another term in office to junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha.

“I will leave some space for them to change their mind,” he said.

Of the 32 political parties surveyed, only four on the margins said they would support removing jail time as punishment for the crime: the Commoner, Mahachon, Green and Thai Power Labor.

As for capital punishment, Future Forward supports abolishing the death penalty for all crimes. The Democrat and Action Coalition for Thailand parties responded that it should remain in place for all current capital crimes, while Chart Thai Pattana said it should not be used for drug-related offenses.

Overall, a majority of the parties supported the capital punishment in some cases while only nine opposed it.

On the question of what could be done about the military’s outsized role in the nation’s affairs and allegations of abuse among its ranks, the Democrat Party said it would abolish the draft. Only five other parties supported that position.

Future Forward was one of just under half of the parties to say it would slash its budget. Both Chart Thai Pattana and Action Coalition for Thailand said they would establish an independent commission to investigate cadet deaths and hold the responsible parties accountable.