UN expert urges Thailand to stop banning insults to monarchy

An outside expert for the U.N. human rights office is urging Thailand's government to halt the use of laws that make it illegal to criticize the monarchy, calling them "a political tool to stifle critical speech."

Special rapporteur for freedom of expression David Kaye says international human rights law is incompatible with Thailand's "lese-majeste" provisions, under which people can be jailed for three to 15 years for insulting, defaming or threatening the royal family.

Kaye's call Tuesday comes as a law student activist is awaiting trial for defaming the crown, the first such case under Thailand's new king Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun.

Thailand's military government wants neighboring Laos to send back about half a dozen Thai citizens who have reportedly taken refuge there to escape being arrested for insulting the Thai monarchy.