An Open Letter to Fellow Thai Writers Nationwide

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wad rawee:
An Open Letter to Fellow Thai Writers Nationwide

RE: Invitation to join hands in demanding amendment of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, and halting the use of lèse majesté charge to suppress freedom of speech and political expression


Dear fellow writers,

We, the undersigned, believe you agree that freedom of speech and opinion is preeminent to being a writer in a democratic society. Whether you are a career author or a “creative” writer, whatever your ideology, faith, or personal beliefs, freedom of speech and opinion is the fundamental building block that provides space, liberty, and opportunities to develop quality of work and life to every writer in the society, and equally so.

Whenever freedom of speech and opinion is fragile and unstable, the writer’s position in a democratic society must also concurrently be fragile and unstable. The primary effect of this situation is that it severs any opportunity to develop knowledge, ideas, and creativity required to write, since the boundaries of writers’ expression and intellectual inheritance become forcefully limited. A more severe impact is to live and work in an atrocious atmosphere, fearful of unfair loss of rights and freedoms, as well as physical dangers to oneself and family.

In Thai society today, Article 112 of the Criminal Code is being used by various people and groups as a political tool, to intimidate, even sue and imprison citizens who simply exercise their democratic rights. This situation tells us that freedom of speech and opinion in Thai society is increasingly being unjustly violated. As members of the public, we are concerned that our freedoms may be threatened; but as writers, we cannot remain indifferent and let the essence of being a writer in democratic society fall into such dire straits.

The short text of Article 112 of the Criminal Code which reads: “whosoever defames, insults, or displays malice toward the king, the queen, the heir, or the regent, shall be imprisoned between 3-15 years” has been invoked to accuse for political gain, to intimidate, sue, and imprison members of the general public. Many charges were made with a wide interpretation of the law; for example, merely not standing when the royal anthem is played could be construed as lèse majesté. Furthermore, the enforcement process of this article takes advantage of feelings a typical Thai harbors toward the king to excise and shorten the process, not following legally proper and appropriate procedures. Many cases are handled arbitrarily, such as holding court inquiry in secret, barring the media from reporting until now. Even members of the press, as well as state-university academics whose discourse on monarchy-related politics have been nothing but academic, have also been charged with lèse majesté.

We cannot comprehend how the accused in many instances can be construed as “defames, insults, or displays malice.” They merely attempt to suggest ideas about the monarchy directly, reasonably with historical facts, acting and speaking as civilized human beings. Moreover, their speech is clearly well-intended for the monarchy and Thai society, as they propose the means to create long-term stability for the monarchy, not made with disdain or desire to “bring down” the institution.

The climate of fear that pervades Thai society, as well as intimidation tactics by some groups, for example army members who intimidate the general public and sue academics, made us realize that it is now time to seriously reconsider Article 112 of the Criminal Code for improvement and amendment, lest freedom of speech and opinion recede further into the dark ages or is totally eradicated.

It is high time that Thai society separate “bringing down the monarchy” out of discussions for long-term social stability, and protecting people’s freedom of speech and opinion in a democratic constitutional monarchy.

As Thai citizens who are concerned of political and social situation in this climate of fear, and as Thai writers who cherish freedom of speech and opinion, we hereby call for urgent revision of Article 112 of the Criminal Code. We also support the consideration of proposals that some intellectuals (for instance the “Enlightened Jurists” group, professor Somsak Jeamteerasakul, and others) have already advocated, so that we may come to a fair conclusion that entails the most social benefits.

In addition, we demand that those who invoke the monarchy as an excuse to position or display political power, such as the army, stop such behavior immediately. You must reform yourselves if you genuinely wish for peace, unity, and fairness.

In a democratic society characterized by diversity and differences, the process of learning and exchange of different beliefs and opinions helps create stability for all, and alleviates violence of conflicts that may happen as per society’s nature. Reconciliation is not the result of fear, but arises out of hope in people’s learning, and confidence in human rights and people’s fundamental freedoms. If people’s freedom of speech and opinion is intimidated and shaken, one’s confidence in democracy and one’s nation is also undoubtedly shaken and decayed.

Fellow writers, we, the undersigned, demand the revision, improvement, and amendment of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, for the stability of democracy, fairness in society, endurance of the monarchy, and the future of our nation.

We, the undersigned, are confident that all fellow writers recognize the importance of freedom of speech and opinion. If you agree with our demands, agree that the charge of lèse majesté must stop being used as a political tool, we invite you to join us in this endeavor by signing this letter in the capacity of writer. Your voice is important to everyone who is facing unfair charges, as well as the accused in the past and in the future. We invite you all to join us in making this demand.


19 May 2554


Binlah Son
Prabda Yoon
Duangruethai Asanashatang
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