Thailand's Public Broadcasting Service is seeking the aid of outside lawyers to defend itself against possible charges that a series of recent talk shows in which the role of the monarchy was debated violated the country'sÂ lÃ¨se majestÃ© law. In Thailand, criticism of the king can be punished by up to 20 years in prison. Twenty persons have been convicted under the law during the past year, each receiving an average sentence of eight years. While PBS chief Somchai Suwanban has maintained that the series was balanced and no threat to the monarchy, police have said that their initial investigation led them to conclude that remarks by some of the speakers in the fourth and fifth episodes of the five-episode series violated the law. Officials warned Internet users against posting excerpts from the broadcasts online because they, too, could be subject to arrest under theÂ lÃ¨se majestÃ© laws. The Bangkok Post published news of the looming crackdown on its front page today (Friday) Â without including any mention of the allegedly offending language voiced during the programs. It quoted Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrun as saying, Any lecturer or program host who did wrong must be prosecuted. ... Rights have limits. The fifth episode of the series, scheduled for last Friday, was canceled at the last moment, then inserted without notice into the schedule on Monday. PBS's Somchai told the Post that the decision to yank the episode came about after a group of royalists gathered outside the station's headquarters and tried to intimidate members of the staff. His decision, he said, had nothing to do with the program's content. It was then broadcast on Monday, he said, because members of the audience had demanded it.
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