Kahiu v. Mutua
Closed Contracts Expression
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A student and recent graduate were imprisoned under Thailand’s lese majeste law for performing an allegorical play that was critical of the Thai monarchy.
A university student, Patiwat Saraiyaem, and a local activist and former student, Pronthip Munkong, were arrested in August 2014 for participating in a play, “The Wolf Bride.” The play was set in a fantasy kingdom and featured a fictional king and his adviser. The play was part of Thammasat University’s 40th anniversary of the October 1973 pro-democracy protest, and 37th anniversary of the 1976 student uprisings. The students were charged with violating Article 112 of the Thai criminal code.
Various human rights groups have spoken out on behalf of Saraiyaem and Mukong, emphasizing that Article 19 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) protects the right to hold opinions without interference, and the right to freedom of expression, which includes “the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” Thailand ratified the ICCPR on October 29, 1996.
The students were charged under Article 112 of the Thai criminal code, the Thai lese majeste law which protects the royals from any insults. Article 112 states, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” Prosecutors cited nine passages from the play script that they believed violated Article 112.
The Thai court sentenced the man and woman to two years and six months in jail in February 2015 for “damaging the monarchy,” after they admitted guilt.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
Thailand’s lese majeste laws are among the world’s strictest. Critics say the military government use them to silence dissent, and this case is evidence that there is a trend of increased use of lese majeste laws to limit freedom of speech in Thailand.
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