On December 5, 2012, thousands of Thais gathered in Bangkok to mark the 85th birthday of their monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The monarchy has great importance in Thai life, so much so that a 100-year-old law exists that makes it a criminal offense to say or write anything deemed offensive about the members of the royal family.

It is known as Article 112 - the lese majeste law. And it is not just a symbolic relic - it has become a political weapon to be used with increasing frequency. From a handful of cases six years ago, there has been a steep rise as 2010 saw almost 500 cases.

The Listening Post’s Meenakshi Ravi reports on Thailand’s lese majeste problem.

"This is a law which is an exact opposite to freedom of speech. It cannot be reformed, you know. If what you say is true, you can still go to prison under lese majeste. The prison terms are outrageous. People at the moment are in prison for 20 years for making statements. Its actually a law which protects dictatorship. You have to abolish lese majeste, and whether or not Thailand has a monarchy or not is another matter."

Giles Ungpakhorn, the author or A Coup for the Rich

Source: Al Jazeera