BANGKOK — An opposition party’s bid to amend the harsh royal defamation law already hit a snag when one of its MPs publicly said he would not support the move.
Move Forward party-list MP Karom Polpornklang said he felt the campaign to reform the offense, known as lese majeste, is doomed to fail and may even draw unwanted attention to his faction. The party has said it will launch the amendment bid after the censure debate concludes next month.
“I have to live in this country,” Karom said by phone Thursday. “I don’t have money to buy airline tickets and move overseas.”
“You can’t say I’m a coward. I simply believe that there will be a time for every institution to change its way, but I will not try to use my knee to break a knife. It hurts,” he said, using a Thai proverb.
Karom, who was a lawyer before entering politics, also said he knew of two other MPs in the party who will not lend their support to the amendment, though he declined to identify them by names.
“I won’t sign on it. At least there are already three people who won’t sign on it, including myself,” the lawmaker said. “A lot of people aren’t comfortable giving the answer like I did. This is a sensitive matter. We can’t act hastily. I’ve never broken ranks with the party, but this will be the first time I do.”
Move Forward MP who spearheads the amendment campaign, Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, said he respects Karom’s decision. Wiroj maintains that a majority of MPs in the party will go ahead and push for reforms of not just the lese majeste law, but other libel laws as well.
“We already had an internal meeting at the party about this matter. We talked about the rationale and reasons for it,” Wiroj spoke by phone. “But some MPs didn’t attend the meeting. They might not have understood the matter clearly.”
He added that the party will try to negotiate with Karom, because the lese majeste charge has often been abused and politicized.
“There have been many prosecutions under this law,” Wiroj said. “Article 112 doesn’t lead to peace. It might even lead to unrest.”
Lese majeste, or insulting the monarchy, is punishable by up to 15 years in prison per offense under Article 112 of the Criminal Codes. At least 50 people have been charged with the crime since November, a civil rights lawyer group said.
Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome, who organized numerous pro-democracy rallies prior to his election, said he respects Karom’s differing view about the law.
“I understand that people can have different opinions about each topic, and we can exchange the views on this,” Rangsiman said by phone. “People have the rights to have different opinions about Article 112 as well.”
Party sec-gen Chaithawat Tulathon admits that not everyone in Move Forward is behind the campaign to reform the lese majeste law.
“There are still details that not all of us agree on,” Chaithawat said. “Right now we have different drafts of the [amendment] bill. There are options that we can discuss.”
The ruling Phalang Pracharath Party has said it will oppose any bid to touch on the lese majeste charge, which it views as a necessary tool to protect the monarchy from slanders.