Human Rights Watch urges Thai authorities to release teenager detained for defaming monarchy News
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Human Rights Watch urges Thai authorities to release teenager detained for defaming monarchy

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Friday called on Thai authorities to release a 15-year-old student activist who was detained after allegedly defaming the nation’s monarchy. Thanalop “Yok” Phalanchai was arrested in Bangkok on 28 March after police accused her of criticising the monarchy during a protest rally in October 2022. She was later charged with lèse-majesté (insulting the monarchy) offences and is being held at the Justice Ministry’s Ban Pranee Juvenile Vocational Training Centre for Girls in Nakhon Pathom awaiting trial.

Asia director for Human Rights Watch Elaine Pearson called for authorities to release Thanalop and drop the charges.“By arresting a 15-year-old girl, the Thai government is sending the spine-chilling message that even children aren’t safe from being harshly punished for expressing their opinions,” Pearson said.

Thanalop was charged for allegedly violating article 112 of Thailand’s criminal code, which states, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”

HRW highlighted how Thanalop’s detainment is in violation of multiple international human rights. HRW specifically claimed Thai authorities were violating article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by imprisoning Thanalop. HRW also stated that lèse-majesté prosecutions violate freedom of expression protected under General Comment 34 of the UN Human Rights Committee.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy ruled by head of state King Maha Vajiralongkorn, and head of government, prime minister Prayut Chan-ocha. Arrests under defamation laws have increased significantly since 2020 after Chan-ocha ordered article 112 to be restored. Between mid-2020 and September 2022, at least 1,860 individuals, including 283 children, were charged under lèse-majesté laws. The UN has previously called for article 112 to be repealed and for the release of those imprisoned on defamation charges.

The rally at Bangkok City Hall in October 2022 called for the release of political detainees and abolition of royal defamation prosecutions.