Prohibition of Defamation and Insult to Buddhism in Thailand: Liberal Perspective

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Pavel Slutskiy

Abstract

The paper attempts to question the legitimacy of laws against blasphemy and defamation of religion, drawing attention to the legal situation in Thailand, where nearly 95% of population is Buddhist of the Theravada school, and where the law prohibits the defamation or insult to Buddhism. The analysis leads to the conclusion that the desire to protect religious feelings of Buddhists ​provokes an attempt to restrict freedom of speech. The need to protect the feelings of believers does not seem to have a solid justification, because it presupposes an invalid right to be free from criticism. The idea that laws against defamation of religion can be justified by the attempt to combat incitement to hatred and violence is rendered invalid too, because it denies the validity of individual moral autonomy. The paper concludes that idea of using legal punishment for a non-aggressive communicative action also contradicts some of the core principles of Buddhism. Although the paper focuses on Thailand, most of the conclusions are applicable to a wider variety of similar legal circumstances.

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