US envoy to Thailand faces inquiry over royal defamation law comments

US envoy to Thailand faces inquiry over royal defamation law comments
Glyn Davies.
PHOTO: Reuters

Police launched an inquiry yesterday into the United States' ambassador's criticism of the harsh lese majeste law, just one day after the junta rapped Britain's envoy for his remarks on the freedom of assembly.

US Ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies made the remarks in an address on November 25 at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, criticising the military regime for "the lengthy and unprecedented" jail sentences handed down under the law.

Critics argue the law is often used to pursue political opponents and that it has been increasingly broadly interpreted in recent years.

Police said a formal investigation has not been launched, but an inquiry was underway following a formal complaint.

"This matter is being investigated according to a complaint filed against the ambassador," police spokesman Dejnarong Suthicharnbancha said. "We cannot conclude anything now and are following step by step."

Piyaphand Pingmuang, another police spokesman, said a formal investigation was unlikely. "His Excellency the ambassador has diplomatic immunity so it is unlikely anything will proceed."

A US embassy spokeswoman said she could not immediately comment on the matter.The investigation into the US ambassador's speech follows government criticism of comments by Britain's ambassador to Thailand, Mark Kent, on Twitter.

Thailand's royal insult laws are among the world's harshest and, under Article 112 of the criminal code, anyone who "defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent" faces up to 15 years in jail.

During its 18-month rule, the military government has cracked down on perceived royal insults and handed down record jail sentences.

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