Thailand is attracting negative publicity over the issue of freedom of expression - due to the lese majeste law and the Computer Crimes Act which prevent people from making critical remarks about Thai monarchy, according to a visiting British academic.
Oxford University Prof Timothy Garton Ash, an authority on free speech and European history, referred in Bangkok yesterday to the “very shocking cases of lese majeste offences”.
“Thailand gets mentioned [negatively] quite a lot,” said Ash, who was keynote speaker at a seminar on reconciliation and freedom of speech organised by the European Union.
He said cases such the latest 10-year lese majeste sentence on Voice of Taksin editor Somyos Prueksakasemsuk had grabbed world attention because the sentence was “so wildly disproportionate that one has to express one’s sense of ... outrage”.
The EU delegation in Bangkok issued a strong statement after the verdict against Somyos last week, expressing deep concern, and as a result local royalists vowed to protest in front of the EU office in Bangkok today.
EU Ambassador to Thailand David Lipman told The Nation he has been accused by some ultra-royalists of being on the payroll of ousted and fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Lipman laughed off the allegation and added that the money from Thaksin hadn’t arrived yet. “I'm waiting for [it],” he joked.
National Human Rights Commissioner Niran Pitakwatchara, said Thais should be more tolerant and allow greater debate on the lese majeste law.