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Thailand: PEN International releases booklets of speeches by Thailand's protest leaders

Thursday 29 July 2021 - 9:30am

Mike Halmshaw
PEN International
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mike.halmshaw@pen-international.org

The Monarchy and Thai Society & The Day the Sky Trembled booklets

On 29 July 2021, PEN International is publishing and freely distributing two booklets containing speeches by four leading activists within Thailand’s reform movement. This is the first time that these booklets will have been published in English, with each booklet including a foreword by the translator, whose identity must remain anonymous to avoid persecution by the Thai authorities.

Since early 2020, protest rallies have taken place across Thailand calling for political reform and the revocation of the highly punitive lèse-majesté law, which has been used to criminalise any critical expression concerning the Thai monarchy and carries a maximum jail sentence of 15 years. All four activists whose words are contained in these booklets now face multiple charges of violating the very law they peacefully called for the abolition of.

PEN International continues its call for the Thai government to repeal the deeply problematic lèse-majesté law and to strengthen anti-SLAPP protections so that it meets Thailand’s international obligations to protect the right to freedom of expression.


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Click here to download The Monarchy and Thai Society

The first booklet, The Monarchy and Thai Society, contains a speech made by poet and human rights lawyer, Arnon Nampha, at a Harry Potter themed protest rally on 3 August 2020. As an individual who has selflessly dedicated his life to improving the welfare of others, Arnon’s speech provides a powerful example of speaking truth to power at great personal cost. In response to his peaceful expression, Arnon now faces a dozen lèse-majesté charges, amounting to a potential sentence of 180 years imprisonment.

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Click here to download The Day the Sky Trembled

The second booklet, The Day the Sky Trembled, includes a collection of four speeches given at protest rallies in August 2020 by Panupong Jadnok, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak, and Arnon Nampha. Over 45,000 copies of the original Thai-language publication of this collection were seized by the Thai authorities to be used as evidence in ongoing and future lèse-majesté cases, making this publication uniquely significant as an example of the damaging impact that lèse-majesté has on the right to freedom of expression.

When considered together, the English translations of these booklets will serve as an important resource for those seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the values and motivations of those willing to risk imprisonment as a consequence of their peaceful expression in Thailand.


Background:

As part of the Thai government’s efforts to suppress the ongoing protest movement, over 100 individuals currently face lèse-majesté charges. The expansive use of the deeply problematic legislation has drawn severe criticism from the both the United Nations and its independent human rights experts, who have called for the law's repeal.

The marked deterioration in Thailand's freedom of expression environment has had a direct impact on poets, writers and publishers, with several currently facing multiple lèse-majesté charges while others are being maliciously targeted with SLAPP lawsuits for their writing. Despite mounting concern from the United Nations and other organisations over the practice in Thailand, SLAPPs continue to be used against those seen to criticise the monarchy.


For further information please contact Ross Holder, Asia Programme Coordinator at PEN International, Unit A, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: ross.holder@pen-international.org