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Thailand Threatens Protest Leaders with Lese Majeste Charges

TrialWatch, a Clooney Foundation for Justice Initiative, has been monitoring the trials of Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak and others in Thailand. They have previously been charged with sedition and other offenses for leading pro-democracy protests over the last several months. The Clooney Foundation for Justice notes with concern that they and others are now facing the additional charges of insulting royalty as a result of speeches calling for reforms to the monarchy. As pro-democracy rallies continue in Thailand, it is critical to safeguard protesters’ rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The right to freedom of expression includes the right to criticize public figures, and Thailand’s use of its ‘lèse-majesté’ law —which punishes anyone who “defames, insults or threatens” the royal family— to prosecute protesters for criticizing the monarchy would violate this core liberty.

“No one should be arrested or imprisoned merely for criticizing public officials or a system of government,” said Amal Clooney, Co-President of the Clooney Foundation for Justice. “Thailand should not respond to peaceful protests by cracking down on protesters through prosecutions that muzzle speech.”

In light of the Prime Minister’s recent directive to use “all laws and all articles” against protestors, CFJ calls on the Thai government to dismiss these charges against Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, and others; to stop using laws such as ‘lese majeste’ and sedition to impose criminal sanctions on free speech and peaceful assembly; and to reform its laws to ensure they comply with the right to freedom of expression.