Human Rights Watch has a news release on the conviction and harsh sentencing of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk for lese majeste. Amongst other things, it states: “The conviction of a prominent Thai magazine editor and his harsh 11-year sentence for ‘insulting the monarchy’ will further chill freedom of expression in Thailand.” It adds:
The courts seem to have adopted the role of chief protector of the monarchy at the expense of free expression rights…. The court’s ruling appears to be more about Somyot’s strong support for amending the lese majeste law than about any harm incurred by the monarchy.
It makes this point in noting that Somyos “was arrested five days after launching a campaign to collect 10,000 signatures calling for the amendment of article 112.”
Remarkably, HRW notes that Somyos was convicted despite the fact that “Thailand’s Printing Act protects editors from being held accountable for the content of others.”
HRW also makes a point PPT has expressed many times:
Human Rights Watch said that Thai authorities used Somyot’s pretrial detention as a means to punish him for his views. Somyot was denied bail eight times during the course of his 20-month pretrial detention [other sources say 12 times]. He was compelled to appear in shackles in hearings in four different provinces for the same alleged offense, even though all the witnesses resided in Bangkok.
HRW also adds some well-known context:
From 1990 to 2005, the Thai court system received only about four or five lese majesty cases per year. In the period from January 2006 to May 2011, however, there was a surge when more than 400 cases were brought to trial. While the prosecutions for lese majeste have declined since Yingluck Shinawatra took office in 2011, Thai authorities continue to use draconian statutes in the Penal Code and the Computer Crime Act to restrict freedom of expression, including on the internet. Thousands of websites have been blocked as “offensive to the monarchy.”
However, the claim that: “Neither the king nor any member of the royal family has ever personally filed any lese majeste charges” is neither here nor there as they are unable to do this. That said, while usually hushed up, it is known that the Royal Household and Privy Council participate in some legal actions on lese majeste.