Mon, Feb 13, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Thai student goes on hunger strike to protest against strict ‘lese majeste’ law

CALLS FOR REFORM:The student is scheduled to fast for 112 hours to protest the law after his father was charged under the legislation in April last year

AFP, BANGKOK

A 20-year-old Thai student whose father has been detained for 10 months under the kingdom’s strict lese majeste laws began a hunger strike on Saturday in Bangkok against the controversial legislation.

Activist Somyot Prueaksakasemsuk, the former editor of two now-defunct “Red Shirt” magazines, was arrested in April last year and charged under article 112 of the Thai criminal code over two articles deemed to be critical of the Thai royals.

DRAWING ATTENTION

His son, Panitan, a law student, began his strike on Saturday afternoon in front of Bangkok’s criminal court, and was scheduled to fast for 112 hours to highlight the point of law in question.

His protest, which a few dozen people came out to support, comes after the seventh request for his father’s bail was denied last month.

‘LESE MAJESTE’

“My hunger strike is to call for the right to bail and to show society the injustice perpetrated against someone charged with lese majeste,” he said before starting the protest.

He wore a white T-shirt with the message: “Give my dad the right to bail.”

Lese majeste carries a penalty of up to 15 years for each count and is designed to protect senior royals from insult, but academics say it has been politicized in recent years.

Many of those charged, like Somyot, have been linked to the Red Shirt movement which backed ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and other critics of the previous establishment-backed government.

REFORMS URGED

The royal family is an extremely sensitive subject in Thailand, but calls for reform of the law have grown and sparked fierce debate in recent months after several high-profile convictions.

A 61-year-old man was jailed in November last year for 20 years for sending text messages deemed insulting to the monarchy, while a US citizen in December was handed two-and-a-half years in prison for allegedly defaming the king.

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