Tuesday, October 9, 2007

New Lese Majeste Laws for Thailand

Thailand plans tougher lese majeste law

Thailand, which strictly enforces laws protecting the monarchy, plans to extend protection to royal advisers and other members of the royal family and restrict media coverage of cases, lawmakers said on Monday.

Under the proposed amendments, to be debated by the army-appointed parliament on Wednesday, journalists could be jailed for three years and fined 60,000 baht ($1,750) for ignoring a court-ordered publication ban.

"We don't want any offence to the monarch to be repeated in the news or become an issue of any criticism" inside or outside Thailand, Supreme Court chief judge Pornpetch Wichitcholchai told Reuters.

Those protected by the expanded law would include sons and daughters of the monarch and royal advisers known as privy councillors, Pornpetch said.

"The current law doesn't cover privy councillors, some of whom have become political victims," he said.

Last month, the government threatened to block clips on video-sharing Web site YouTube that accused chief royal adviser Prem Tinsulanonda of masterminding last year's bloodless coup.

Such allegations against Prem have been made by supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra during demonstrations and denied repeatedly by the generals and government they appointed.

The government lifted a five-month ban on YouTube's site, www.youtube.com, in August after its owner, Google Inc, installed filters to stop Thais from accessing clips deemed to insult King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest reigning monarch.