In less than two years, the number of verdicts in lèse-majesté cases has reached 100, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), Union for Civil Liberty (UCL), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) said today (31 October). Most of these cases were brought in connection with the defendants’ participation in pro-democracy demonstrations and political expression, including online posts.
"Repeal Section 112" sprayed onto the street during a protest at the Criminal Court in December 2021
According to information compiled by TLHR, between 30 November 2021 and 30 October 2023, courts of first instance delivered verdicts in cases involving 100 defendants charged under Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code (lèse-majesté). Of these, 79 defendants were found guilty and 21 were acquitted, resulting in a 79% conviction rate. The longest prison sentence imposed during this period was 28 years.
“The number of lèse-majesté convictions is again reaching alarming levels. Thailand’s Prime Minister said he is in favor of amending Article 112 of the Criminal Code, so he should do whatever is in his power to ensure that its enforcement does not violate human rights," said Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Secretary-General
Between 24 November 2020 and 27 October 2023, at least 259 individuals — 20 of whom under the age of 18 — were charged under Article 112. Some of the prominent pro-democracy activists face prosecution in multiple cases of alleged lèse-majesté violations, which could result in prison terms of up to 300 years.
At least 16 individuals charged with lèse-majesté are currently detained: one awaiting trial; two children detained at the Children Observation and Protection Center; 10 appealing their cases; and three serving their prison sentences. Most of those who have been found guilty of lèse-majesté since November 2021 are not currently imprisoned because they were either granted bail pending appeal or had their prison sentences suspended.
FIDH, TLHR, UCL, and iLaw urge the Thai government to amend Article 112 to bring it into line with Thailand’s human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). We recall the remarks made by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on 6 April 2023, in the lead up to the 14 May 2023 general election, that Article 112 “is problematic in its enforcement,” and that it “needs to be reviewed […] so as to prevent it from being used as a political tool.”  On a separate occasion, on 3 May 2023, Mr. Srettha stated that Article 112 should be amended. 
FIDH, TLHR, UCL, and iLaw also reiterate their calls on the Thai government to reverse many of the previous administration’s repressive policies and actions, including by refraining from carrying out arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of individuals for the peaceful and legitimate exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression.
Article 112 of the Criminal Code imposes jail terms for those who defame, insult, or threaten the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne, or the Regent. Persons found guilty of violating Article 112 face prison terms of three to 15 years for each count.
The current wave of lèse-majesté prosecutions began in late November 2020 after then-Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha pledged to enforce “all laws and articles” against leaders and protesters who participated in the pro-democracy protests that swept Thailand for most of 2020. During many of these demonstrations, protesters broke Thailand’s longstanding political taboo by directly criticizing the monarchy and calling for reforms of the institution.
For more than a decade, various United Nations (UN) human rights monitoring mechanisms have expressed concern over Thailand’s lèse-majesté prosecutions and the enforcement of Article 112. They have also repeatedly called for the amendment or repeal of Article 112.
In addition, since August 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has found the deprivation of liberty of nine individuals detained under Article 112 to be “arbitrary” because it contravened several provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the ICCPR, to which Thailand is a state party. Eight of those detainees were released after serving their jail terms, while the ninth, Anchan Preelerd, remains incarcerated, after being sentenced to 87 years in prison in January 2021.