The Thai government defended its lese-majeste law, or section 112 of the criminal code, in front of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council working group late Wednesday in Geneva.
The Thai delegation, led by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Diplomat Nadhavathna Krishnamra, heard several countries criticize the law which some activists have called draconian for its harsh punishment and its use in silencing dissidents by the government.
Several member states, including Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, at the meeting in Geneva, raised questions over the law’s use to prosecute political opposition and its curtailing of freedom of expression.
Nadhavathna clearly defended the law in response to the criticisms in a rare instance where a Thai government representative official comments on the lese majeste law.
“[The law] is closely linked to safeguarding the key national institutions and national security,” Nadhavathna said.
“It reflects the culture and history of Thailand, where the monarchy is one of the main pillars of the nation, highly revered by the majority of Thai people.”
Section 112, which prohibits the insult of the monarch and his immediate family, carries a potential sentence of up to fifteen years in jail.
The government has charged over 150 people, including 13 minors, with section 112 over the past 18 months. Many are student protesters calling for a change of government and reform of traditional institutions.