It’s not just some local scholars who object to Thailand’s controversial law that makes it a crime to insult the Thai king or royal family. Noam Chomsky and Princeton’s Cornel West are among 221 foreign academics who have signed a letter addressed to the Thai prime minister asking the government to reform the law, Reuters reports. Under the strict Thai law, known by the French term lèse-majesté, those found guilty of insulting the revered 84-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej or any member of the royal family can receive prison sentences of up to 15 years.
The letter, written in support of a group of Thai lecturers who want to amend the law, calls the lèse-majesté restrictions “a powerful tool to silence political dissent.” Last year a Thai history professor was charged with violating the law, leading to complains that academic freedom is under threat in the country. Supporters of the law say the king is Thailand’s moral compass, and that he and the royal family should be shielded from any criticism.