The trial and conviction of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk has once again put Thailand in an uncomfortable spotlight. At home, there is concern about how lese majeste cases are decided, prosecuted and punished. Outside the country, Thailand is increasingly criticised as a nation where authorities trample on the media and on freedom of expression. Action should be taken to address and correct both these views.
A major problem in addressing the very real flaws in prosecuting and punishing lese majeste offences is the passion that the law brings to any discussion. There can be no updates to lese majeste legislation so long as this continues. Certain groups in the country inflame the debate with baseless charges, which in essence accuse those wishing to amend lese majeste laws of lack of patriotism, or worse.
In this, advocates of legal change too often play into the hands of the knee-jerk ultra-nationalists.
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