A United Nations (UN) expert, Frank La Rue urged Thailand to amend its controversial lese majeste laws. Calls to tone down laws that prohibit defamation of the country's royal family were put forward, with La Rue asserting that the legislation and punishments involved do not conform with Thailand’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The statement was issued on the same day US citizen Joe Gordon Joe Wichai Commart Gordon pleaded guilty in a Thai criminal court to charges of insulting the monarchy. He was arrested in May during a holiday in the kingdom and accused of posting a link to a translation of a banned book -- an unauthorised biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej -- on his blog, along with other material deemed offensive, while living in the US.
Thailand's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, said the government was conscious of the problem raised by the UN expert.
"The monarchy is a very important institution — it's the pillar of stability and unity in Thailand. But we are aware of the concerns," he said, adding that a committee had been appointed to advise the government on how to better implement the law.
Report: UN Expert Urges Reform of Thailand’s Royal Insult Laws (VOA, 11 Oct 2011)
Report: UN expert urges reform of Thai royal insult laws (AP, 11 Oct 2011)
Meanwhile in Cambodia, a Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal judge has quit. The German senior Co-Investigating Judge, Siegfried Blunk, who was responsible for indicting suspects at Cambodia's UN-backed tribunal has resigned, citing government interference.
Frequent government opposition to further prosecutions in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), as the court is known, calls into question the integrity of two ongoing investigations. Judge Blunk cited a series of statements by Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials to the effect that no more indictments should be handed down beyond an initial five, including an assertion by Mr. Hun Sen to the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, that further trials “will not be allowed.”
The UN’s response, as articulated by U.N. Deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey was that the world body is "working urgently" to ensure that a reserve judge is available as soon as possible to replace Blunk. Del Buey also insisted that tribunal judges must be permitted to work "without interference from any entity, including the royal government of Cambodia."
The UN call came hours after the tribunal said senior government officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, argued that the tribunal should not pursue any more cases. It pointed out that Blunk initiated contempt of court proceedings against Cambodia's information minister over one such remark in May.
The resignation follows months of controversy over the failure of the court to proceed with what are known as Case 003 and Case 004. The UN-backed tribunal has so far convicted only one former Khmer Rouge prison warden and is trying the top four surviving Khmer Rouge leaders in a case that is expected to last for years.
Report: Judge quits Khmer Rouge court over interference (Reuters, 10 Oct 2011)
Report: Judge quits Cambodia Tribunal (New York Times, 10 Oct 2011)
Report: Cambodia War Crimes Tribunal Judge Quits (Al Jazeera, 10 Oct 2011)
Report: Judge Quits Khmer Rouge Tribunal (VOA News, 10 Oct 2011)