GENEVA (25 March 2024) – UN experts* today expressed alarm over the use of Thailand’s lèse-majesté laws to convict and sentence human rights defender and lawyer, Arnon Nampa.

Arnon Nampa is a founding member of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR). He has provided free legal assistance, including representation in litigation, to individuals in vulnerable situations, and on highly sensitive cases.

On 26 September 2023, Arnon Nampa was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. He has been in detention since and on 17 January 2024, he was sentenced to a further four years. These charges are related to a speech he delivered at a peaceful pro-democracy demonstration calling for reform of the monarchy. Nampa also questioned the enforcement of Section 112 of the Thai criminal code – which seeks to curtail criticism of the monarch of Thailand – and its impact on freedom of expression in the country.

“The prison sentences and repeated criminalisation of Mr. Nampa’s work are completely disproportionate and form part of a concerning trend of deliberately silencing human rights defenders and other dissenting voices,” the experts said. “The use of lèse-majesté charges in Thailand has been a cause of alarm for years, and Special Procedures mandate holders have sent several communications to the Government of Thailand expressing concerns in this regard.”

“Harsh sentences for those defending human rights and exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are incompatible with Thailand’s international legal obligations. They have a chilling effect on human rights defenders, civil society and fundamental rights and freedoms,” the experts said.

Arnon Nampa is also facing ongoing disbarment proceedings before the Lawyers Council of Thailand in relation to a speech he made on 3 August 2020, calling for reform of the monarchy.

“Criticism of the monarchy and speech proposing reforms and advocating for human rights should be protected and promoted in a democratic society. We call on the Thai authorities to overturn Mr. Nampa’s conviction and drop the remaining charges against him,” the UN experts said. “Lawyers have the right to freedom of expression and must not be deprived of their right to practice on the basis of ideas they have expressed in the exercise of the legal profession.”

“We reiterate our long-standing call on the authorities to repeal the lèse-majesté law, bring the Criminal Code into line with international human rights standards, drop charges against those who are currently facing criminal prosecution and release those who have been sentenced for the sole exercise of their rights to freedom of expression,” they said.

*The experts: Mary LawlorSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defendersClément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of AssociationIrene Khan, Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion; and Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.