Letter to the Lawyers Council of Thailand on Disbarment Proceedings against Mr. Anon Nampha

Letter to the Lawyers Council of Thailand on Disbarment Proceedings against Mr. Anon Nampha

In a joint letter to the President of the Lawyers Council of Thailand, the ICJ and Lawyers for Lawyers raised concerns on the disbarment proceeding against Mr. Anon Nampha, a lawyer and human rights defender. The organisations believe that the proceedings unduly interfere in his work as a lawyer and serves to impair the exercise of his human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.

Dear President of the Lawyers Council of Thailand,
Re: Disbarment Proceedings Against Mr. Anon Nampha

Lawyers for Lawyers is an independent and non-political foundation that seeks to promote the proper functioning of the rule of law by pursuing freedom and independence of the legal profession.

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), a global non-governmental organization composed of 60 eminent judges and lawyers, works to advance understanding and respect for rule of law as well as the legal protection of human rights throughout the world.

We write to your office concerning the disbarment proceeding against Mr. Anon Nampha, a lawyer and human rights defender, that is taking place before the Investigative Committee that was established by the Committee on Professional Ethics of the Lawyers Council of Thailand during the Meeting No. 1/2564 on 13 January 2021. We are concerned that the proceeding unduly interferes in his work as lawyer, including in representation of clients, and serves to impair the exercise of his human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.

According to our information, we understand that the proceeding against lawyer Anon Nampha is related to a complaint motion filed to the Lawyers Council of Thailand on 7 August 2020 by Mr. Aphiwat Khanthong, Assistant Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, claiming to be acting in his capacity as a private attorney at Or Amporn Na Takua Tung and Friends Law Office. Mr. Aphiwat Khanthong alleged that lawyer Anon Nampha’s behaviour violated the Lawyers Council of Thailand’s disciplinary rules as, he claims, it would “incite, intend to cause unrest, distort information and insult on the monarchy”. The alleged speech in question apparently called for reform of the monarchy, during a Harry Potter-themed protest at the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue on 3 August 2020.

Under international law and standards, lawyers, like other individuals, enjoy the right to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. A lawyer should be able to draw the public’s attention to issues relating to public affairs in their official capacity as well as in their private capacity. Suspensions or revocations of lawyer licenses as a result of exercise of their legitimate rights and freedoms do not only impact on the exercise of the rights of the lawyers, but also on the rights of their clients to be represented by the lawyer of their choosing.

Download the full letter in English and Thai.

Cambodia: end efforts to introduce lèse-majesté law

Cambodia: end efforts to introduce lèse-majesté law

Cambodia should halt efforts to radically limit the right to freedom of expression through adoption of lèse-majesté legislation which would criminalize the exercise of some expression, said the ICJ today.

The Spokesperson for the Cambodian Council of Ministers, Phay Siphan, reportedly announced on Facebook today that the Council of Ministers had approved an amendment to the Cambodian Criminal Code which would make it a crime to insult the Cambodian King, carrying a penalty of one to five years imprisonment and/or a fine of two million Riel (USD 500) to ten million Riel (USD 2,500).

“The Cabinet’s approval of a lèse-majesté law appears to be a further attempt by the Government to ‘weaponize’ the country’s legislation against its perceived opponents,” said Kingsley Abbott, ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser.

“The Government’s ongoing misuse of the law is particularly concerning given the lack of independent and impartial judges to provide appropriate checks and balances on its power,” he added.

The ICJ has previously raised concerns about abuses arising from the lèse-majesté law in neighboring Thailand to curb freedom of expression.

Exercises of expression which are critical to a democratic society under the rule of law, including commenting on public policy and political questions, are sometimes stifled and punished under these laws.

The right to freedom of expression is protected under international law and should never be subject to criminal penalties, let alone imprisonment, which is a manifestly disproportionate penalty for the exercise of the fundamental right to free expression, the ICJ said.

Kingsley Abbott, Senior International Legal Adviser, ICJ Asia Pacific Regional Office, t: +66 94 470 1345, e: kingsley.abbott(a)icj.org


Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Cambodia is a State party, protects the right to freedom of expression. This right includes the “freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds.”

In its General Comment No. 34 on article 19, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC), the body that monitors compliance of State parties with the ICCPR, expressed concern about the use of lèse-majesté laws and asserted that “imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty” for defamation.

The HRC further clarified that “all public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority such as heads of state and government, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition” and that “laws should not provide for more severe penalties solely on the basis of the identity of the person that may have been impugned”.

In February 2017, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion of freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, urged Thailand to refrain from using the lèse-majesté law as a “political tool to stifle critical speech” and asserted that “(l)esè-majesté provisions have no place in a democratic country”.

The legislative amendments ratified by the Council of Ministers will now be sent to the National Assembly, the lower house of the Parliament of Cambodia, for approval.

Upon approval by Parliament, the amendments would come into force when signed by the King.

At the same time as approving a lèse-majesté law, the Council of Ministers reportedly approved other constitutional amendments which appear to impose impermissible restrictions on the rights to free association and freedom of assembly, also protected under the ICCPR.

These legislative amendments reportedly include provisions that (i) the right to vote or the right to stand as an election candidate can be restricted by domestic legislation, (ii) the right to form a political party would require “placing the nation’s interests first”, (iii) prohibit individuals from “undermining the interests of the nation” and (iv) allow Secretaries of the State to be appointed by Royal Decree rather than by Parliamentary vote.

Read also

ICJ’s October 2017 Report: Achieving Justice for Gross Human Rights Violations in Cambodia

Thailand: immediately end the practice of arbitrarily detaining persons in unofficial places of detention

Thailand: immediately end the practice of arbitrarily detaining persons in unofficial places of detention

Thailand should immediately end the practice of arbitrarily detaining persons in unofficial places of detention said the ICJ today.

The statement came after it was revealed that human rights lawyer, Prawet Prapanukul, who had been arbitrarily detained for five days at a detention facility inside a military base in Bangkok, finally appeared and was charged at the Bangkok Criminal Court on 3 May 2017.

During the morning of 29 April 2017, military officers invoked Head of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order 3/2015 to arrest Prawet Prapanukul and search his residence in Bangkok, seizing a number of items located at the property including computers, phones and hard-drives.

The whereabouts of Prawet Prapanukul were unknown until the afternoon of 3 May 2017, when Prawet Prapanukul contacted several lawyers including Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) and said he had been held at the Nakhon Chaisri temporary remand facility inside the 11th Army Circle military base in Bangkok.

“Prawet Prapanukul’s five-day incommunicado detention without being brought before the courts or access to legal counsel amounts to an arbitrary detention in violation of his rights under international law and consequently he should be provided with appropriate reparation,” said Kingsley Abbott, the ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia.

“To ensure the protection of all persons while in detention, Thailand has a duty to detain people in officially recognized places of detention, to have their names and places of detention made available to interested persons and to bring them before a court without delay within 48-hours,” he added.

According to TLHR, on 3 May 2017, Prawet Prapanukul was charged with ten counts of the highly restrictive crime of lese majeste (article 112 of the Criminal Code), three counts of a sedition-like offence (article 116 of the Criminal Code), and violation of article 14(3) of the Computer Crime Act.

The ICJ has previously raised concerns about abusive recourse to these laws.

Pursuant to article 91(3) of the Thai Criminal Code, it is possible that, if convicted of these charges, Prawet Prapanukul could receive a maximum sentence of 50-years imprisonment.

“Freedom of expression, as protected under international law, must never be criminalized. In any event, imprisonment is never a proportionate penalty for the exercise of free expression, let alone the unthinkable possibility of 50-years, which would set a new recorded record for a sentence for lese majeste,” Abbott said.

On 25 April 2017, after reviewing Thailand’s compliance with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a State Party, the Human Rights Committee, the international expert body charged with supervising the implementation of the ICCPR, issued its Concluding Observations in which it noted that in Thailand “individuals were reportedly often detained without charge and held incommunicado at undisclosed places of detention for periods of up to seven days, with no judicial oversight or safeguards against ill-treatment and without access to a lawyer.” The Human Rights Committee observed that Thailand should immediately release all victims of arbitrary detention and provide them with full reparation.

“The fact that Thailand arbitrarily detained Prawet Prapanukul at a military facility just five days after the Human Rights Committee issued its Concluding Observations criticizing Thailand’s practice of detaining people incommunicado in undisclosed placed of detention demonstrates a worrying contempt for its international human rights obligations as pointed out by the Committee,” Abbott added.


Kingsley Abbott, ICJ Senior International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia, t: +66 94 470 1345 ; e: kingsley.abbott(a)icj.org

Thailand-Prapanukul-detention-News-2017-ENG (full text with background, in PDF)

Thailand-Prapanukul-detention-News-2017-THA (Thai version, in PDF)

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