Insulting the royal family in Thailand is a serious crime that can mean prison sentences for offenders.

Story highlights

The commission calls for less severe punishments for insulting the monarchy

International organizations have criticized Thailand's lese-majeste law

The commission is independent and does not have the power to change the law

It addressed its letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra

CNN  — 

A Thai advisory panel has recommended an overhaul of the country’s law that stipulates heavy sentences for insulting the royal family, according to a letter addressed to the prime minister seen Thursday by CNN.

The independent Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand said in the letter that the punishments should be less severe and “based more on popular sentiment.” The commission has no power itself to change the law, but its views are respected in Thailand.

International groups like Human Rights Watch have repeatedly criticized Thailand’s tough laws against defaming, insulting or threatening the royal family.

Last month, a Thai criminal court sentenced a Thai-born American to 2 1/2 years in prison for insulting the monarchy. The U.S. government said it was “troubled” by the case and criticized the sentence as too harsh.

The recent letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was dated December 30, but it was sent to CNN and other international news organizations Thursday.

In it, the commission supported the view of human rights organizations who say the lese-majeste law has been misused for political reasons.

The law should be changed, the letter said, otherwise “it may continue to be used as a political tool and will therefore obstruct reconciliation between people in our country.”

CNN’s Kocha Olarn contributed to this report.