Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - A leading royalist and key supporter of the lese majeste law in Thailand met with opponents of the law yesterday to amicably discuss and deliberate on the future of the law and how the monarchy institution might be reformed.
The historic deliberation was held by Mahidol University's Centre for Human Rights and Peace Studies. It involved leader of the multicolour shirts and staunch royalist, Doctor Tul Sithisomwong, and prominent opponents of the law such as lese majeste lawyer Arnon Nampha and red-shirt political activist Jitra Kotchadej.
Tul admitted that some royalists had abused the lese majeste law by filing unnecessary lawsuit against their political enemies, but he said he has nothing to do with such people. He urged both sides to recognise the diversity within each camp.
Tul said the law as it stands, is problematic as it conflates [melds together] defamation and the harbouring of vengeful feelings towards the monarchy institution.
Tul told opponents of the law that he believes there should be a process where any lese majeste police complaint be vetted before being accepted by police, in order to avoid abusive use of the law.
He nevertheless defended the law as necessary in order to protect HM the King, not as a person but as the head of state.
Arnon, who served as defence lawyer for high-profile lese majeste detainees such Thai-US dual citizen Joe Gordon and Amphon "Akong" Tangnoppakul, who died in prison in May this year, stood firm in his position there is a need to legally criticise the monarchy institution for the benefit of the public, and that the law is undemocratic.
Arnon welcomed the opportunity to deliberate with Tul, however, and said he recognised the need to build bridges.
Tul said he also recognised that not all opponents of the lese majeste law were "republicans" or ill-intended and urged people who have good intentions toward the institution to stay clear of those who defamed the monarchy.
Jitra meanwhile stressed the need to scrutinise monarchy institutions like that of the United Kingdom and other countries, and said many charges had been used as political tools.
The half dozen people who participated in the round-table deliberation agreed to meet again to establish rapport, become more emphatic and to build bridges - as opposed to the existing climate of mutual animosity between both sides of the political divides.
Tul later took a photograph with Arnon and another anti-lese majeste law activist, Nithiwat Wannasiri, with Tul holding a portrait of HM the King.