Thailand outlaws criticism of Constitutional Court

The Associated Press BANGKOK (AP) — A new law makes criticism of Thailand’s Constitutional Court punishable by imprisonment, giving extra protection to a body that in recent years has made controversial rulings altering the shape of governments.

The unheralded law took effect when it was published last week in the Royal Gazette. It says honest criticism without rude, sarcastic or threatening words is not in violation of the law, but if such words are used, it is punishable by up to one month in jail and a 50,000 baht ($1,600) fine.

Defamation is a criminal offense in Thailand, punishable by up to two years in prison, but must first be filed through the police. The new law allows the Constitutional Court to deem verbal attacks a “violation of court powers,” enabling it to initiate its own cases.

“What constitutes a violation is still broad and unclear,” said Yingcheep Atchanont, manager of legal monitoring group iLaw. “Now that the law has been passed, the Constitutional Court should refrain from using this law or not use it at all.”

The clause “violation of court powers” constitutes something new, said Yingcheep, explaining that in the past, problematic criticism could be dealt with under the defamation law, which would put it in the hands of a different court.Speech

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