Thai army chief opposes change to royal insult law

BANGKOK - Thailand's powerful army chief expressed opposition Tuesday to amending the country's lese majeste law, recently criticised by the West, saying those who opposed it should move abroad.

Critics say that Thailand has suppressed freedom of expression with stepped up use of the legislation, under which anyone convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count.

"It is not appropriate to discuss this. Personally I will do my part for national security in protecting (the monarchy)," General Prayut Chan-O-Cha told reporters.

When asked about activists calling for reform of the law, he said they "must go and live in foreign countries".

"Although we are a democracy, don't go too far," he added.

The United States, the European Union and the United Nations have expressed concern over recent convictions, which have also sparked small protests both for and against the law in the Thai capital Bangkok.

A 61-year-old Thai man was jailed last month for 20 years for sending text messages deemed insulting to the monarchy, while a US citizen has since been handed two-and-a-half years in prison for defaming the king.

Last week a "Red Shirt" activist was sentenced to 15 years in jail accused of defaming the royals during speeches at political rallies in 2008.