The new Thai government has launched a wave of prosecutions against government critics and opponents of the 2006 military coup. In a major attack on democratic rights, it is using charges of lèse majesté (insulting the king) which carry a maximum 15 year jail term, to spread a climate of fear.

MPs from the new government headed by Abhisit Vejjajiva want to increase the penalty to 25 years jail. They came to power in December last year after Thailand’s democratically elected government was removed following right-wing demonstrations and pressure from the military.

Among those facing charges is Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a socialist activist and Associate Professor of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University. His charges relate to a book he published criticising the 2006 military coup, A coup for the rich.

Others to face charges include a former government minister, speakers at pro-democracy demonstrations and BBC correspondent Jonathan Head. Australian writer Harry Nicolaides was recently sentenced to three years in jail.

Although Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, there is still “a manic promotion of the Monarchy”, according to Giles. But the use of lèse majesté is not about “defending the Monarchy as such”, he said. “The 19th September 2006 coup is a good example… the military sought to legitimise themselves by referring to the Monarch. The Lèse Majesté Law is thus used as a tool by the military, and other authoritarian elites, in order to protect their interests.”

“It is now a central weapon to be used against all those who criticised the 2006 coup or those who oppose the government.”

An international campaign is being run against this attack on democracy in Thailand, and to defend individuals like Giles Ji Ungpakorn who face the danger of years in jail.

If you would like to sign the statement against the Thai government’s use of lèse majesté email solidarity [at] solidarity.net.au for details. Further information is available at http://wdpress.blog.co.uk

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