Govt, House rule out article 112 amendment
Chalerm proposes Cabinet resolution vowing not to touch lese majeste law; activist slams 'hilarious' ideaThe Yingluck government yesterday distanced itself further from the campaign to amend the lese majeste law, with the Pheu Thai-dominated House giving hints it would not deliberate amendment proposals initiated by the public.
Signals from the House of Representatives coincided with Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobam-rung's suggestion that the Cabinet should make it publicly clear it would never touch Article 112 of the Criminal Code.
The House will likely block the debate on the lese majeste law even if the signature campaign to amend the Article 112 of the Criminal Code proceeded to completion, spokesman Wattana Sengpairoh said yesterday.
"Coalition and opposition MPs are unanimous about not amending Article 112," he said.
Wattana said all 265 Pheu Thai MPs and the Democrats were united in leaving Article 112 as it is, therefore any draft amendments sponsored by the voters would languish in the legislative docket and expire before reaching the House floor.
In a related development, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm chaired a high-level meeting to map out police and security measures designed to protect the monarchy.
National Police chief General Priewpan Damapong, National Security Council secretary-general Wichean Potephosree and Interior permanent secretary Phranai Suwannarat took part in the meeting.
Priewpan said Chalerm was preparing to seek a Cabinet resolution against any attempts to amend Article 112.
"I can confirm there will be no change to Article 112 as the government is about to issue a Cabinet resolution on the issue," he said.
He reminded the Nitirat academic group that the authorities were keeping a close watch over its activities to spearhead the signature campaign on the lese majeste law. "We will arrest [you] for any wrongful moves and any illegal activities will face prosecution," he warned.
Earlier, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra vowed to keep the lese majeste law as it is. Yesterday's developments suggested the executive and legislative branches are in unison over the relevance of Article 112. The government's attempt to stay clear of the controversy, however, is unlikely to stop the on-going campaign to amend the law, which critics say, has often been abused and thus discouraged freedom of expression.
Two key members of the Campaign Committee to Amend Article 112 (CCAA), or lese majeste law, that is campaigning based on Nitirat's proposals expressed disappointment at Chalerm's idea but said it cannot stop the campaign to gather at least 10,000 signatures as required by the Constitution to amend the law. They said it also means that the deputy premier does not understand constitutional rights and the democratic system.
Yukti Mukdavichit, a lecturer of anthropology at Thammasat University and a key member of the CCAA said he finds Chalerm's idea "hilarious".
"I think it's hilarious. Our campaign is based on constitutional right. What other organisations' stance towards us is, will not have any effect on us."
Yukti said he thinks Chalerm is making such a suggestion to defend his "royalist" credential. "It also means that people in the government do not understand human rights and liberty under a democratic system. [Such an idea] is also unconstitutional," said Yukti, warning that Chalerm and even the Cabinet could be charged with restricting the constitutional right to amend law by citizens.
Labour activist and CCAA committee member Jitra Kotchadej expressed a similar view. She said Chalerm has shown himself to not be respectful of people's constitutional rights and reflects a lack of respect for the democratic process. "I'm surprised because Chalerm was elected... It's horrible."