Thai junta bans FCCT event on lese majeste law

New York, June 16, 2015–Thailand’s ruling military junta has banned an event on Wednesday by the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand to discuss the country’s draconian lѐse majesté law, news reports said. This is the second ban this month of an FCCT event that was scheduled to discuss the country’s declining human rights situation.

Police cited the National Council for Peace and Order, the ruling junta, as saying that the panel on the country’s lѐse majesté law should be canceled for reasons of security, according to news reports. A letter last week sent by police to the FCCT said the event “would sow disunity in Thai society, and encourage people to break the law and stir unrest,” the reports said.

Thailand’s lѐse majesté law, defined in Article 112 of the penal code, is designed to shield the Thai monarchy’s king, queen, heir, and regent from public criticism. Convictions under the law are punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The FCCT initially declined the police request, saying the government’s fears were groundless, according to an FCCT statement. Police then said that if the event went ahead as scheduled, soldiers would be deployed to seal off access to the office building where the FCCT is situated, according to the statement.

“Thai authorities are banning criticism of the country’s ban on criticism,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “CPJ calls on Thailand’s military government to stop harassing the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand and to allow it to resume its valuable role as an open forum for debate on issues of national import, including the use of anti-royal charges to stifle dissent.”

Thailand’s military junta has ramped up lѐse majesté prosecutions since seizing power in a May 2014 coup, according to news reports. The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology claims to have blocked thousands of websites deemed as hosting materials critical of the monarchy. Two journalists, Somyot Preuksakasemsuk and Nut Rongwong, are in prison under the harsh provisions of the law, according to CPJ research. Sukanya Preuksakasemsuk, Somyot’s wife, was scheduled to speak about her husband at the FCCT event.

On June 4, the junta blocked another FCCT panel discussion that was scheduled to discuss the country’s human rights situation since the military’s takeover. The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group, which organized the event, said in a statement issued after the cancellation that its research showed the junta had banned and censored 71 similar public events since seizing power in a coup.

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