Thai scholar faces royal insult charge over medieval king

Mon Oct 20, 2014 4:47am EDT
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BANGKOK (Reuters) - A prominent Thai intellectual has been accused of insulting a medieval king, a government spokesman said on Monday, and faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted.

Thailand has a strict lese-majeste law which makes it a crime to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir to the throne or regent. The law does not apply to past or deceased monarchs but is often loosely interpreted for political ends.

Two retired army officers filed a complaint against veteran social campaigner Sulak Sivaraksa, 82, over remarks he made at a seminar on Oct. 12 including comments about King Naresuan the Great, a national hero who died in 1605.

If convicted, Sulak could be jailed for up to 15 years.

"Police received a complaint filed by two retired soldiers against professor Sulak," said government spokesman Yongyuth Mayalarp.

Sulak, one of Thailand's most prominent scholars and social activists, has been the target of several lese-majeste complaints since the 1980s.

He was not available for comment.

Thailand's army seized power in a May 22 coup saying it needed to restore order after months of street protests that helped overthrow an elected government. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former army chief who led the coup and was appointed prime minister in August, is a self-proclaimed royalist and has vowed to root out critics of the monarchy.

David Streckfuss, a Thailand-based scholar who monitors lese-majeste laws, said the complaint against Sulak was symptomatic of attitudes to the royal insult law under a junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), that has been pursuing such cases with zeal.   Continued...