[JURIST] Prominent Thai scholar Sulak Sivaraksa was cited in a criminal complaint on Thursday for his comments about a Thai king who died 400 years ago. Two retired senior army officers filed [AP report] the criminal complaint, which included a charge of lese-majeste, or intentionally insulting the monarchy. The action that gave rise to this complaint was the result of Sivaraksa’s specific comments and criticism of King Naresuan during a recent academic seminar. Since the 1980s Sivaraksa, an academic and activist, has faced many charges for his criticism and comments of the Thailand government. Sivaraksa faces up to 15 years in prison for his comments if convicted.
In August the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] that the prosecution and sentencing of lese-majeste cases by Thailand’s ruling military junta threatens 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.