PM: Web lese majeste a worry


But says govt must take care in enforcing law

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is concerned about lese majeste, especially on the internet, but believes the government must tread carefully in enforcing the law or it could cause more offences to be committed.

In a Senate session yesterday, senators Anothai Ritthipanyawong and Khamnoon Sitthisamarn asked Mr Abhisit about his reaction to left-wing academic Giles Ungpakorn’s recent statements in England. The senators suspected the academic’s views amounted to lese majeste.

In response, Mr Abhisit sought a closed-door session as the topic was sensitive. After the closed-door meeting that lasted over an hour, a source said Mr Abhisit admitted his government was concerned about lese majeste, especially that which involved comments posted on overseas websites.

”The prime minister stressed legal action that was too public could allow ill-intentioned parties to increase their activities. Law enforcement alone is therefore not a solution,” the source quoted him as saying.

According to the source, Mr Abhisit pointed out that critics who expressed their academic views had to be separated from those who had ill intentions towards the monarchy.

”Especially among internet users, people who express opinions honestly must not be forced to join the movements of those with ill intentions,” the source quoted him as saying.

Therefore, the government would opt to ask for cooperation from the internet community rather than making arrests. The government recognises freedom of communication on the internet and that webmasters cannot screen out improper content around the clock.

Mr Abhisit promised the government would ask the police why they had arrested people in charge of the Prachatai party’s website when the alleged offence concerning Mr Giles had taken place two years ago.

Arrests could ruin the government’s attempts to seek cooperation from parties concerned, according to the source.

In the Senate session yesterday, Mr Abhisit was asked to find a way to help defend privy councillors from accusations because they were not in a position to defend themselves in public. He promised to consider the request.

He also confirmed his government did not plan to have Article 112 of the Criminal Law amended. The article deals with lese majeste.

Although Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga had proposed an amendment bill when he was an opposition MP, Mr Abhisit was quoted as saying that it would be a personal matter for Mr Pirapan and he did not think the law posed any problem.

The problem rested with law enforcement and its interpretation by the authorities. Experts should train the authorities concerned to have a fair standard for law enforcement, Mr Abhisit was quoted as saying.


Bangkok Post, Published: 28/03/2009


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