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Academic charged with "insulting the monarchy" in book on military coup

(SEAPA/IFEX) - A Thai political scientist charged with insulting the monarchy called for a campaign on 13 January 2009 to abolish the country's lese majeste law, media reports said.

According to the Associated Press (AP) online, Ji Ungpakorn, a professor at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University and a prominent activist, said he has been charged with insulting the monarchy over a book he wrote about the 2006 military coup in Thailand.

Ji, who is the son of the late Central Bank governor Puey Ungpakorn, a respected civil servant in Thailand, called for "an international and national political campaign to defend democratic rights in Thailand and for the abolition of the lese majeste law."

According to Ji, the lese majeste law mandates a jail term of three to 15 years for defaming the king, the queen or the heir to the throne. "(It) restricts freedom of speech and expression and does not allow for public accountability and transparency of the institution of the monarchy."

AP quoted him as saying, "(It) is a tool used by the military, and other authoritarian elites, in order to protect their own interests." He claimed he was being targeted for political reasons because he criticised the military and its coup.

Recently, there has been a spate of complaints and prosecutions for lese majeste and increased censorship of websites allegedly critical of the monarchy. The new Information and Communication Technology (ICT) minister, Ranongruk Suwanchawee, said on 6 January that, "The blocking of websites that disseminate content and pictures which insult the monarchy is one of the government's crucial policies".

The government reported that it has blocked 2,300 websites which allegedly have messages that are considered to be insulting to monarchy. Some 400 more are awaiting court orders for their closure

For further information on websites being banned under the lese majeste laws, see:
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/99735

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