Thai Royalists Protest Outside US Embassy in Bangkok
About 100 royalists gathered in front of the US embassy in Bangkok on Friday in support of the kingdom’s tough laws against insulting the monarchy, following criticism from Washington.
“We call on the US embassy and Ambassador Kristie Kenney to apologise to all Thai people for their improper action towards our beloved king,” said protest leader Chaiwat Surawichai.
Some demonstrators held signs reading “Kristie Kenney Shut Up” and “We will protect article 112 with our lives,” referring to the section of the Thai criminal code concerning royal defamation.
The United States earlier this month urged Thailand to ensure freedom of expression and voiced alarm over a series of lese majeste cases.
A day later a court in Bangkok jailed a Thai-born American for two-and-a-half years for insulting the king by publishing online — while in the United States — a banned biography that he translated into Thai.
The sentence drew a protest from the United States, which said he was exercising his right to free speech.
Critics say that Thailand has suppressed freedom of expression with stepped-up use of its lese majeste legislation.
There have been two rare protests in the Thai capital this month against the strict laws, under which anyone convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count.
Thailand’s frail king, who turned 84 earlier this month, has reigned for 65 years but has been in hospital since September 2009.
“I love my king and I came to seek justice,” said 53-year-old insurance saleswoman Hathairat Chareonwattananon, who joined Friday’s protest.
“I want the government to suppress all lese majeste activities and not allow anyone to touch our king.”