UN human rights experts today expressed grave concerns over Thailand’s increasingly severe use of lèse-majesté laws to curtail criticism of the monarchy, and said they were alarmed that a woman had been sentenced to over 43 years in prison for insulting the royal family.
As per a statement by the OHCHR, on 19 January, Ms. Anchan Preelert, a 60-year-old former civil servant, was handed what is believed to be the country’s harshest sentence under lèse-majesté provisions, for reportedly having posted audio clips that were critical of the monarchy on her Facebook page between 2014 and 2015.
“We urge the appeal court to reconsider the case of Anchan Preelert in line with international human rights standards and set aside the harsh sentence.
“We have repeatedly emphasized that lèse-majesté laws have no place in a democratic country,” said the UN experts. “Their increasingly harsh application has had the effect of chilling freedom of expression and further restricting civic space and the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms in Thailand.”
According to the experts, as pro-democracy activists have largely moved towards online advocacy in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the authorities have begun to enforce lèse-majesté provisions more strictly and have even charged minors with these severe charges for exercising their freedom of expression.
“We are profoundly disturbed by the reported rise in the number of lèse-majesté prosecutions since late 2020 and the harsher prison sentences,” they said.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has consistently ruled that the deprivation of liberty stemming from lèse-majesté charges in Thailand is “arbitrary.”