Thailand vows to review political and royal cases

AFP , Tuesday 20 Sep 2011

Responding to independent recommendations, Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra says the government will review political trials and royal insult cases related to five years of unrest

Thailand's Prime Minister elect Yingluck Shinawatra(Photo:Reuters)

Thailand will review political trials and royal insult cases connected to five years of unrest, the country's prime minister said Tuesday in response to independent recommendations.

Yingluck Shinawatra, whose brother Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup that opened deep divisions in the kingdom, said the government accepts a report from The Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand, received last week.

"The cabinet received recommendations and in order to create an atmosphere for reconciliation and in line with the rule of law; the government agrees to review all criminal charges and lese majeste cases to ensure fair investigations," she told reporters.

She also vowed to "coordinate to secure temporary release of political prisoners", in line with the commission's advice.

Government spokeswoman Titima Chaisang said in cases where judges denied release for political prisoners, the commission had recommended they be held in special areas, not ordinary prisons.

She said she was "seeking clear explanation" from the Justice Ministry over cases which have already been tried and resulted in conviction.

In its first report to Thailand's new leadership the commission said prosecutions under legislation, including an emergency decree and the lese majeste laws governing insults against the monarchy, were linked to political conflict before and after the coup.

Thailand's political divides reached a crescendo in April and May 2010, with clashes between the army and anti-government "Red Shirt" demonstrators in which more than 90 people died.

A number of Red Shirt demonstrators are behind bars facing terrorism charges.

Yingluck said the government would review charges stemming from unrest before and after the coup, suggesting protests such as the occupation of Bangkok airports in 2008 by the royalist Yellow Shirts could also be included.

She said another committee would be set up to coordinate the response to the report and "show the government is serious and willing to work with this commission to forge genuine national reconciliation".

The Thai premier also promised "speedy and serious" measures to compensate those affected by unrest, without specifying the type of remedy planned.

Academics have noted a sharp increase of new royal insult cases in recent years and rights groups have expressed concern that the law was used to suppress freedom of expression under the last government, considered close to elites that backed the 2006 coup against Thaksin.

Commissioners said they were concerned that an apparent increase in lese majeste prosecutions "could have political impact".

Under Thai legislation, anybody convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count.

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