[JURIST] The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] expressed concern [press release] Tuesday that the prosecution and sentencing of lese-majeste cases by Thailand’s ruling military junta threaten citizens’ rights of free expression. According to the press release, 13 new cases have been opened for investigation under lese-majeste laws, which prohibit speech that is defamatory to the monarchy, since the May 22 coup [JURIST report] that ousted the previous government. Defendants in these cases have included university students participating in plays as well as a man sentenced to 15 years in prison for messages he posted on Facebook.
Human rights issues have been an ongoing issue within Thailand due to political unrest. King Bhumibol Adulyadej [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] announced his support [JURIST report] in July of the junta’s interim constitution. In June a group of independent UN human rights experts urged [JURIST report] the junta to reverse all measures affecting basic human rights. Armed soldiers arrested [JURIST report] Thai human rights activist Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk and her son during a raid on their home in May. Earlier that month the junta released several statements [JURIST report] in an effort to quell dissent following the coup.