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Noose tightens on Thai press freedoms with press conference cancellation in Bangkok

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jun• 15•15

RiotPolicesBKK1a-300x286 - CopyPeople who thought things would be easier for members of Thailand’s domestic and foreign press after the coup of May, 2014 may be re-evaluating their positions. The NCPO (National Council for Peace and Order), who now runs the government, cancelled a discussion that was to be held at Bangkok’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCCT) on June 17. The topic was to be “Article 112: Its role in Thai society – A Panel Discussion about Article 112 and its role in Thai Society” (see the FCCT’s press release below).

We first reported in 2012 on the concerns surrounding Article 112, know familiarly as Lèse-Majesté Law, generally agreed to be among the most draconian press laws in any country. Its elements contain regulations relating to unlawful press activities, including reporting anything that could be construed to be critical of the Royal Family. As the law is applied, the interpretation is broad. For example, the Royal Family owns controlling interest in the Siam Cement Company, and therefore anything negative written about Siam Cement could legally result in a conviction and jail sentence under the law.

Earlier this year, we reviewed an important book, banned in Thailand, Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s ‘A Kingdom in Crisis,’ which describes the history and reinforcement of laws such as Article 112.

Since the law was imposed, numerous reporters have been detained by military authorities or jailed. Shortly after the coup, authorities urged all reporters working in Thailand to register with the Bangkok Police, after which they would receive green armbands so they might be better identified in civil disturbances by police and military personnel. Concerns were voiced that in effect, this would make it easier for authorities to arrest and prosecute members of the press. To date, we have seen nothing that would prove this concern to be untrue.

The Thai government’s war on the press continues unabated. Here is the FCCT’s press release on the cancellation:


– June 15, 2007

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand regrets to announce that the planned discussion on Article 112 of the Criminal Code, or Lèse-Majesté Law, scheduled for 17 June 2015, has been cancelled, after a verbal order to do so was given by the NCPO, via the police.

The FCCT has now been told that if the event goes ahead, the military will come and seal off access to the Maneeya Centre, where the club is located. This is an unacceptable imposition on the many other tenants in the building, and it is with great regret that we have decided to cancel.

We received a letter last week from the police asking for our cooperation in cancelling the event, stating that the 112 event would sow disunity in Thai society, and encourage people to break the law and stir up unrest. We told them these fears were groundless, and declined their request.

The police informed us there were no regulations prohibiting us from proceeding. So we asked for a written order from the NCPO before we could justify cancelling the event. The NCPO has now told us they will not issue such a letter because they fear it would be used in the media to damage their image.
The FCCT has held many discussions on Article 112 in the past, and prides itself on being a forum for free debate, a role we have continued to play since last year’s military coup. Since then we have held a wide variety of events, some of which have given the military government full opportunity to argue in support of its plans for the country.

The use of Article 112 has long been controversial, and has increased markedly since the coup. We believe the law is a legitimate subject for discussion, not only for Thais, but also for foreigners who live or invest in Thailand. Our discussion would, we believe, have been constructive.

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