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Thaksin Shinawatra wants lese majeste penalty cut

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has suggested the 15-year maximum jail term for lese majeste be cut, a comment that appears to contradict his earlier view of the law being “problem-free”.

His latest remark was posted on the Facebook account of the CARE group comprising veteran politicians with ties to the fugitive premier and the main opposition Pheu Thai Party.

Thaksin, who said last week there was no problem with the lese majeste law, says the 15-year maximum jail sentence for violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code is too harsh. The law must be amended to lower the punishment as a matter of urgency.

“We need to figure out how to keep the punishment from being too heavy,” he said, adding those detained on lese majeste charges must be granted the right to bail. 

Thaksin, who fled the country before his conviction by the Supreme Court in the Ratchadaphisek land case in 2008, stressed the issue has to do with ensuring justice.

He admitted he may have not been clear enough regarding his previous comments about Section 112. He also said he should have elaborated more about who is entitled to file a lese majeste complaint with the police. 

Currently, the law permits anyone to do so, whereas in the past a specific committee was put to work on receiving a complaint before deciding whether it should be investigated. 

Now, police have to accept every complaint for investigation. Some complaints have no merit and should not be admitted.

The complaint system regarding the lese majeste law also must be revamped. “If we don’t do this, divisions will cut even deeper,” he said.

Thaksin said the government has failed to understand the thinking behind young people’s push for amending Section 112. “They mean well but the authorities assume they do not respect [the monarchy],” he said. 

The handling of the lese majeste law has been “a mess”, especially since the young people charged under Section 112 were denied the right to bail, he added.   

Meanwhile, senior Pheu Thai members have proposed an urgent motion in parliament seeking a probe into alleged abuses of power by law enforcement authorities against political detainees.  

Party leader Cholnan Srikaew led Pheu Thai executives in submitting the motion via Parliament President Chuan Leekpai on Wednesday.

Dr Cholnan said the motion was intended to see Section 112 being applied in line with the rule of law. 

What the party is calling for will not interfere with the justice system or past legal cases related to the section. 

He added that Pheu Thai was using available parliamentary channels to push for the exercise of the right to bail for political detainees.

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