Thailand 2024: Constitutional Court Rules against the Proposal to Reform Lèse-Majesté Law

April 25, 2024

The Constitutional Court of Thailand ruled that the opposition Move Forward Party’s efforts to change section 112 of the criminal code, which punishes a person who insults or defames the king or the royal family, violated Thailand’s Constitution. It also ordered Move Forward to stop all attempts at instituting any change.

Section 112 of Thai Criminal Code currently reads as follows: "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."

The party Move Forward won the Parliamentary elections in the May 2023, campaigning for democratic reforms, including a reforming change in the section 112 of the criminal code.  “United Nations independent human rights experts had also voiced grave concerns over increasingly severe use of lèse-majesté laws in Thailand, warning that a rise in their usage is further restricting civic space and the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms in the country.”

However, the proposed amendments faces strong opposition by the legal fraternity supporting the royals argued and contented, that it violated the core of the constitution as, the party’s sole intention was to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.

Section 49 of the Constitution states:

“No person shall exercise the rights or liberties to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State. Any person who has knowledge of an act under paragraph one shall have the right to petition to the Attorney-General to submit a motion to the Constitutional Court for an order to cease such act.”

However,  the Constitutional Court stated that Move Forward’s proposal to amend section 112 was similar to a bill in 2021 that was rejected by the parliament, and that

The bill was aimed at lowering the status of the royal institution because it required the Bureau of the Royal Household to file lese-majeste complaints. Consequently, the institution would be placed in direct opposition to members of the public in defamation cases. That would go against the constitutional principle that elevates the royal institution above any political issues because the royal institution is a pillar of national security.

The Constitutional Court also stated that the action of the accused displays the use of freedom of thought to demand the destruction of the democratic system of governance with the king as the head of state, hidden within, and through the call to amend article 112 of the criminal code as party policy.”

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