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Thailand independent commission calls for overhaul of royal insult law

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRCT) [backgrounder] has recommended that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra [BBC profile] amend the law that punishes anyone who insults the royal family with up to 15 years in prison [Thai Penal Code text] for each separate crime. The Commission was set up by the Thai cabinet in 2010 to investigate the violence in the country. The TRCT asked that a senior member of the government be appointed to authorize criminal proceedings, instead of any member of the public, as is the case now. Despite attacks on the law within the country, as well as abroad from the US, EU and UN, Thailand's political parties have indicated that they will not reform the law. Opponents of the law claim that it has become a political tool used to limit free speech. In a letter to the prime minister [AFP report], the Commission requested that the punishments fit with public sentiment and be less harsh. The law is even drawing criticism from some with royal blood who, in a letter, requested the prime minister change the law. However, they did not specify how they wish the law to be changed.

In early December an American was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison [JURIST report] after he translated part of a banned biography and put the translation on the Internet. UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression Frank La Rue [official website] condemned the law [JURIST report] in October 2011 saying that it was too vague on what constituted an insult. In 2009, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called for a public trial [JURIST report] for a Thai political activist accused of violating the law, when the judge ordered the trial closed for national security reasons. Darunee Charnchoensilpakul [advocacy website] was convicted [BBC report] at the trial and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

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