Thailand halts plan to toughen lese majeste law

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BANGKOK, Oct 9 (Reuters) Thailand's army-appointed parliament has abandoned plans to extend strictly enforced laws protecting the monarchy after protests from royal advisers it had intended to cover, a Supreme Court judge said today.

Sponsors withdrew amendments to expand lese majeste laws after a member of the Privy Council, which advises the monarch, said it did not want such protection, Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said.

''We were informed by a privy councillor that the Privy Council was not happy to be protected, so we decided to withdraw them for now,'' Pornpetch, who is also a member of parliament and the chief sponsor of the amendment, told Reuters.

The amendments would have expanded lese majeste to include children of the monarch as well as privy councillors.

They would also have imposed restrictions on media coverage lese majeste cases and allow journalists to be jailed for three years and fined 60,000 baht for ignoring a court-ordered publication ban.

Last month, the government threatened to block clips on video-sharing Web site YouTube that accused chief royal adviser Prem Tinsulanonda of masterminding last year's bloodless coup.

Such allegations against Prem have been made by supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra during demonstrations and denied repeatedly by the generals and the government they appointed.

The amendments also drew protests from media rights advocates who said they amounted to a grave violation of freedom of expression which should be debated widely in public, not by army-appointed legislators.

REUTERS SG VC1706

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