BANGKOK — Pro-establishment politicians said Wednesday they will seek to block any attempts to raise the issue of royal defamation law or the monarchy during the censure debate next month.
The opposition’s Move Forward Party has told Khaosod English that it’s planning to bring up the discriminate use of the royal insult charge, or lese majeste, when the Parliament convenes for the debate on Feb. 16, but a key coalition leader said he will protest any mentions of the law.
“We will do our duty and ensure that the session complies with regulations, especially No. 69, which governs the discussions about the monarchy,” Paiboon Nititawan, deputy leader of the ruling Phalang Pracharath Party, said by phone. “Therefore, if they talk about it, it’ll be in violation of No. 69. We will protest it.”
He also said, “But when we protest, we’ll explain our reasons to the public, so they’ll understand us and they won’t think we try to obstruct the debate. So, if there’s any issue about [lese majeste], we will protest it. I’ll be part of the effort to scrutinize the opposition.”
Regulation No. 69 on parliamentary sessions bans the speakers from “referencing His Majesty the King or any other person without due cause.”
A similar warning was issued by Warong Dechgitvigrom, a leader of hardline pro-monarchy group Thai Phakdee, which was recently registered as a political party. Warong said he would regard attacks on lese majeste law – or any move to amend it – as an attempt to overthrow the monarchy.
Insulting the monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in prison per count, according to Article 112 of the Criminal Codes. The Move Forward Party has said it’s aiming to discuss its excessive enforcement in the upcoming censure debate, and explore venues to amend the law.
“We will have to warn the MPs,” Warong said by phone Wednesday. “Politicians are plotting to repeal Article 112 in order to destabilize the monarchy. They are trying to overthrow the system of democratic regime with the King as Head of State.”
He added, “As soon as they propose it, we’ll file a legal challenge.”
But deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam told reporters that lese majeste and the monarchy can be mentioned during a censure debate is possible, as long as the speakers make clear they raise the issue in order to criticize the government, not the royal institution.
“It doesn’t mean they can’t talk about it, but they’ll have to be careful, otherwise they’ll run into regulations on parliamentary sessions and protests from fellow MPs,” Wissanu said Wednesday. “They can talk about it, but they have to make it about the Ministers. Don’t make it about the monarchy.”
In its letter to the House Speaker, the opposition said it’s planning to target PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and nine Ministers in their no-confidence motion.
Another coalition member party said it will keep a close watch on the censure debate. Democrat Party spokesman Ramet Rattanachaweng said he’ll have to see whether and how the issue about lese majeste will be discussed at the Parliament before he can make any comment.
“We cannot make any guess right now,” Ramet said by phone. “But if there’s any violation of the regulations, of course it will be up to the MPs [to act]. Everyone knows what their duty is, because we’re all committed to the institutions of Nation, Religions, and Monarchy.”
Ramet said his party will also wait to see if Move Forward will go ahead with its push to amend the lese majeste law, although he confirmed the Democrat Party does not endorse the amendment.
“As for Article 112, our party has no policy to amend it, because we are not affected or damaged by it directly,” the spokesman said.
Phalang Pracharath Party deputy chairman Paiboon said he will personally oppose any amendment to the lese majeste law.
“We’ll wait and see, but personally, I oppose it, of course,” he said. “Our party’s policy is to defend the monarchy.”