Press Release — Thailand: HRF Condemns Arbitrary Arrest of OFF Speaker Pravit Rojanaphruk

NEW YORK — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the arbitrary arrest of Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) speaker Pravit Rojanaphruk.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the arbitrary arrest of Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) speaker Pravit Rojanaphruk. Rojanaphruk, a senior newspaper reporter and columnist at the English-language daily The Nation, was arrested Monday morning for “presenting information that is not in keeping with the (junta’s) guidelines promoting peace and order,” according to a government spokesman. Rojanaphruk was released late this afternoon in Thailand, after over 24 hours in arbitrary detention.

“Mr. Rojanaphruk is a frequent victim of a military junta and a royal family who are afraid of dissent and are intent on silencing the most potent voices of civil society,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “Rojanaphruk is paying the price for his tireless criticism of the Thai dictatorship’s authoritarian practices, which include arresting students for making the salute in ‘The Hunger Games’ movie to threatening British comedian John Oliver for ‘undermining the royal institution,’ after Oliver satirized the king. The Thai people and Mr. Rojanaphruk deserve their freedom, and until they obtain it they deserve the world’s attention and recognition,” said Halvorssen.

This was Rojanaphruk’s second arrest without charge after the military took over in 2014. Since the May 2014 coup d’état, dozens of Thai politicians, journalists, and citizens have been required to attend “attitude adjustment sessions,” which consist of a brief period of involuntary incarceration by the military that can last up to seven days. According toresearch by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), at least 47 individuals have been detained and 18 have been sentenced for violating the country’s lèse majesté laws. They have been given prison terms ranging from one to 50 years, for a combined total of 159 years.

Article 112 of the Thai criminal code states that “whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne or the Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years.” Similarly, the 2007 Computer Crimes Act imposes jail terms of up to five years for any views on the monarchy made on the internet that are deemed to threaten national security.

“Since 1908, Article 112 of the Thai penal code has been especially conspicuous in the authoritarian judicial arsenal now being used by the despots ruling Thailand. It effectively outlaws any statements that public officials at the king’s service may find offensive, thus shutting the door for democratic debate and government scrutiny in Thailand,” said Javier El-Hage, chief legal officer of HRF. “According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), signed and ratified by Thailand, states may not criminalize criticism of public officials through penal laws on defamation, an example of which are Thailand’s various lèse majesté laws. The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression has already expressed that these laws do not meet the standard set in Article 19 of the ICCPR, so Thailand should stop wrongfully enforcing them against law-abiding citizens like Rojanaphruk,” said El-Hage.

In May, Rojanaphruk spoke at HRF’s Oslo Freedom Forum about the fight for democracy in Thailand and the limitations on the right to assembly, expression, and movement in the country. Hours prior to his arrest yesterday, he tweeted, “Freedom can't be maintained if we're not willing to defend it #Thailand.”

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. HRF’s International Council includes human rights advocates George Ayittey, Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Garry Kasparov, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

Contact: Jamie Hancock, (212) 246-8486, jamie@hrf.org

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