The flight from Thailand of activist and scholar Giles Ji Ungpakorn has raised the already high political temperature in the country. Giles, charged with lèse majesté, asserts that he cannot receive a fair trial in Thailand. As Giles has been outspoken about the ways in which the military and other conservative forces in Thai society use the monarchy, a vast array of powerful forces have reason to silence him.
As PPT has reported in earlier posts, following the distribution of Giles’ Red Siam manifesto, there have been calls for stronger action against people considered by royalists to be seditious or treasonous. These calls follows a spate of lèse majesté charges that have been processed under the Democrat Party-led coalition government – one report claims there are now 30 such cases. The result is a climate of fear.
The release of the Red Siam manifesto has been taken by royalists and the right-wing as further evidence that there is a plot to depose the monarchy and establish a republic. PPT is concerned that the Thai government will now be even more aggressive in silencing those it associates with Giles and his manifesto.
It is said that all Thai academics who signed a petition Giles circulated are now under threat. The signatories, who were supporting freedom of speech and opposing the political use of lèse majesté, are worried that they may be the targets for royalist reaction. Another threat is to bloggers who are posting material considered to be anti-monarchy. It is widely believed that a round-up is possible. Even if these threats do not result in action, the fear is palpable.
Reinforcing this deep consternation amongst academics and political activists is a widely held belief that a cause for Giles’ flight was a personal message from a prominent figure with strong palace connections. The message was that Giles would get no leniency and would be imprisoned. Of course, PPT cannot confirm this story, but the belief is that the Democrat-supported campaign on lèse majesté has the highest support.
PPT deplores the political uses of lèse majesté in Thailand and the climate of fear that this use and the threat of its use engenders in Thailand.
We urge all friends of Thailand to take action. Contact human rights organizations, embassies, government leaders and ministries and express concern/dismay/outrage at the political use of lèse majesté. Make these cases highly visible in the media, on the internet and for the international community.