Bangkok, Jul 18 (EFE).- The royal defamation law, which protects Thailand’s monarchy from all criticism under severe prison terms, has become the main stumbling block for the winner of the recent elections to become prime minister.
Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of progressive party Move Forward, won 14 million votes in the May 14 elections, will again be presented Wednesday as candidate for the position, after the blockade suffered by his candidacy last week.
Move Forward, supported by young people demanding a deep democratic reform in the country since 2020 that includes the monarchy, keeps alive its electoral promise to try to amend this draconian law.
This commitment distances Pita and his party from power, which, despite adding a large majority in the elected House of Representatives in coalition with seven other formations, runs into the broad rejection of the unelected Senate that sees the possible reform as a threat to the current system.
Thailand’s constitution, drafted in 2017 under the military dictatorship, states that a candidate for prime minister must achieve an absolute majority in a bicameral vote.
Here are some keys to this controversial law that has led to a political impasse:
LONG PRISON SENTENCES
“Whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir or regent, must be punished with imprisonment for between three to 15 years,” says article 112 of the Penal Code.
The imprecise definition of the law, classified as a crime since 1957, opens the door to the interpretation of the courts that have come to imprison defendants for a drawing of a duck that, according to magistrates, served to mock the monarch.
LESSEN THE PUNISHMENT
The progressive formation, accused before the Constitutional Court of “trying to overthrow” the democratic system with the king as head of state – which could cost its dissolution – remains firm in its promise to amend the law with the aim of lowering the penalties.
It also proposes that the Office of the Royal Household be the only one that can file complaints, in contrast to the current situation in which anyone can file an accusation.
The use of this law exploded since massive protests led by young people who, with their historic marches in 2020, broke the taboo on debating monarchy issues in public.
Proof of this was Thursday’s session in parliament, in which Pita was not elected mainly due to the abstention of the senate, where the royal defamation law was debated for hours, something unprecedented until now.
From June 2020 to this month, at least 252 people, including minors aged 14, have been charged under the law for their participation in the protests.
OVERTHROW THE MONARCHY
While Move Forward sees Article 112 of the Penal Code as a political instrument to repress dissent, conservative factions see it as key to the country’s stability.
Members of the senate, handpicked in 2019 by the former military junta and with a mandate until 2024, have censored the intention to reform the law and ensure that it actually hides the first step to overthrow the monarchy.