World

UN rights expert criticises Thai defamation case

BANGKOK: The first royal defamation case brought under Thailand's new monarch was slammed by a top United Nations envoy yesterday.

The comments were sparked by the ongoing detention of Jatupat Boonpatararaksa, a pro-democracy student activist arrested in December for sharing on Facebook a profile written by BBC Thai of the country's new king Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Thousands of Thais shared the profile but Jatupat - a prominent junta critic better known by his nickname Pai - is the only person to have been prosecuted so far.

Multiple bail hearings have been held behind closed doors and he faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Mr David Kaye, the UN's special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, said he was concerned by the use of secret hearings.

He also launched a wider attack on Thailand's lese majeste law, the use of which has skyrocketed since royalist generals seized power in 2014.

"Public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority, may be subject to criticism, and the fact that some forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify restrictions or penalties," Mr Kaye said in a statement.

He said such laws "have no place in a democratic country" and called for Thailand to repeal them. - AFP

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