Thailand: Professor charged with ‘lèse-majesté’

***UPDATE: Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn arrived in the UK this weekend (7-8 February 2009) having fled from Thailand. He had been charged with insulting the monarchy on 20 January, for which he could have faced up to 15 years in prison. For more information, please see Duncan Campbell’s article ‘British professor flees Thailand after charge of insulting king.’ ***

English PEN is seriously concerned about Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn who was charged with ‘lèse-majesté’ (insulting the monarchy) on 20 January 2009.

According to our information, Giles Ji Ungpakorn, an associate professor at Chulalongkom University in Bangkok and a contributor to Asia Sentinel and the New Statesmvan, was formally charged under the lèse-majesté laws with insulting the king on 20 January 2009. He has 20 days to respond to the charges, before the Thai authorities decide whether or not his case will be given to the Thai courts for prosecution, and could face between three and fifteen years in prison if found guilty. It is widely believed that the charges against Ungpakorn relate to his book A Coup for the Rich, in which he criticised the 2006 military coup. (To read the book, please click here.) We consider the charges against Ungpakorn to be in breach of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression and to which Thailand is a state Party, and are therefore calling for them to be dropped.


 Giles Ji Ungpakorn (left)

Furthermore, we remain deeply concerned by the increased use of ‘lèse-majesté’ laws in Thailand. Giles Ungpakorn is the second New Statesman contributor to have faced such charges in recent months; the first was Australian writer Harry Nicolaides, who was sentenced to 3 years in prison on 19 January 2009 for insulting the monarchy in his novel Verisimilitude. His lawyers are preparing to make an application for a Royal pardon. For more information on this go to 

English PEN shares the widespread concerns about “the growing number of people being investigated and charged under Thailand’s draconian ‘lèse-majesté’ law, as the police and army try to suppress what they fear is a rising tide of anti-monarchy sentiment.”* We are therefore continuing to urge the Thai authorities to decriminalise ‘lèse-majesté’ legislation, which not only stifles legitimate discussion of the monarchy, but also can be seen to violate the right to freedom of expression.

NB. On 18 January, Giles Ji Ungpakorn launched a petition protesting the use of ‘lèse-majesté’ in Thailand. To sign the petition, please click here.

(* )

Background information:

Sholto Byrnes’ article, ‘Taking Royal Liberties’.  

Previous PEN alerts on Harry Nicolaides:

Please send appeals:

– Expressing serious concern about the charges of ‘lèse-majesté against Giles Ji Ungpakorn and calling for them to be dropped;
– Requesting that the Thai government decriminalises ‘lèse-majesté’ legislation, which appears to stifle legitimate discussion of the monarchy and violate the right to freedom of expression.

Appeals to:

Prime Minister

Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva

The Secretariat of the Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister

Government House

Pitsanulok Road

Dusit, Bangkok 10300


Fax: 66 2 280 0858

Salutation: Dear Prime Minister

Minister of Justice

Mr. Pirapan Salirathavibhaga

Office of the Minister

Ministry of Justice

Chaeng Wattana Road

Pak Kred, Nonthaburi 11120


Fax: 66 2 502 6734

Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister of Interior

Mr. Chavarat Charnvirakul

Ministry of Interior

Office of the Secretary to the Minister

Ministry of Interior

Assadang Road

Pra Nakorn, Bangkok 10200


Fax: 66 2 226 4371

Salutation: Dear Minister

If possible please send a copy of your appeal to the diplomatic representative for Thailand in the United Kingdom:

His Excellency Mr Kitti Wasinindh
Royal Thai Embassy
29 – 30 Queen s Gate
London, SW7 5JB
Fax: 020 7823 9695

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