December 12, 2017
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HRW urges Thailand to drop lese majeste charges against historian

Bangkok, Dec 6 (efe-epa).- Human Rights Watch Wednesday urged the Thai public prosecutor's office to drop charges against a 84-year-old historian, who is accused of violating the Penal Code article 112 on lese majeste, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Sulak Sivaraksa, who was awarded the Right Livelihood Award by the Stockholm-based organization in 1995, will stand trial Thursday before a military court in Bangkok for insulting the monarchy by questioning the historical accuracy of a 1592 elephant battle between King Naresuan of Thailand and Minchit Sra of Myanmar, during a talk at the Thammasat University.

"Academic freedom and free speech in Thailand will suffer devastating blows if the trial against Sulak proceeds," said the Executive Director of the Asian division of Human Rights Watch (HRW), Brad Adams, in a statement.

The statement also called the lese-majeste an abusive and absurd provision and demanded the "immediate unconditional withdrawal" of charges against Sulak during Thursday's hearing.

In a letter sent to the Thai foreign ministry two months ago, 44 Right Livelihood Award laureates had described the charges - presented three years ago and admitted by a military court in early October - as unsubstantiated.

They had said Sulak was simply exercising his freedom of academic expression to comment on a historical fact.

Thailand has been governed by a military junta since the last democratically elected government was overthrown in a coup in 2014, who brought lese-majeste cases under the jurisdiction of military courts that often hand out stricter sentences.

Since the military junta came to power in the country in May 2014, at least 105 people have been arrested on lese-majeste charges, as compared to a decade ago when it barely exceeded ten a year.

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