Updated: The missing headline: Lese majeste

22 02 2011

There is currently a storm of lese majeste activity in Thailand but very little of it is in the English-language media (except for the ever reliable Prachatai). Self-censorship would be the usual explanation, but the Thai press reports such cases, so we think it is a case of cleaning the headlines for international consumption.

The Manager keeps reporting these lese majeste cases as victories for the forces of good against evil while failing to notice that lese majeste repression is easily turned on anyone deemed an opponent of the amart’s regime.

PPT has posted on several lese majeste cases and issues in recent days: Chiranuch Premchaiporn‘s court case, Surachai Sae Dan‘s most recent arrest, Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul‘s court case, and the threat to track down lese majeste internationally. To this incomplete list we can add the lese majeste accusations raised against Thaksin Shinawatra, Robert Amsterdam and editor of the Fa Diew Kan/Same Sky magazine Thanapol Eawsakul. The accusations are made by a Democrat Party member of parliament.

Back in November, the MP, Watchara Petthong, called for charges against those involved with the Amsterdam & Peroff “White Paper,” on the violence of April and May 2010, which Watchara said was “offensive to the monarchy and the courts.” At the time, the Thai version of the book did not name of the author, but listed Amsterdam & Peroff as the publisher and Kled Thai Co as the distributor.  Its first edition ran to 5,000 copies and each sold for 100 baht. It became a best seller.

Watchara has reportedly lodged the complaints calling for charges with the Crime Suppression Division late last week. He did this because he says that his calls last November were ignored. He filed the charges himself and gave police copies of the book as “evidence.”

It remains unclear why Thanapol is included as he is not listed as the publisher of the book. Both Thaksin and Thanapol have faced earlier charges related to lese majeste.

Robert Amsterdam, who now joins the ever-lengthening list of those facing lese majeste charges at PPT’s page on Pending Cases, has responded at his blog. Amsterdam makes the point that this is “not the first time accusations of this sort are leveled against us {he and Thaksin] by Democrat Party politicians. In the wake of the White Paper’s release in July, Democrat Party spokesperson Dr. Buranat Samutrak made similar charges.”

Amsterdam states: “the White Paper does not contain any instance of lese majeste.”He says that Watchara raises objections to two points:

First, Mr. Watchara resents that the White Paper pointed out that His Majesty the King did not publicly intervene in the wake of the 1976 and 2010 demonstrations, as he did in 1973 and 1992. That, of course, is factually true; besides, the White Paper does not make any value judgment about this historical fact. Second, Mr. Watchara suggests that simply pointing out that many people are being arrested and jailed for lese majeste constitutes an insult to the monarchy. Again, it is an empirically verifiable fact that an unprecedented number of people have been thrown in jail for lese majeste since the Democrats cheated and bribed their way into power (a 1500% increase of cases in 2009). Condemning the arrests certainly does not constitute an insult to the King, but rather an attack on those, like Mr. Watchara and his party, who constantly invoke the King’s name for their own political gain.

Watchara with the "evidence"

Amsterdam suggests that:

… [t]he odd timing of his attack betrays a transparent attempt to stifle free speech, as international awareness of the unlawful conduct of the Democrat Party during the Bangkok massacres increases day by day. The White Paper, in both English and Thai versions, online and print, have reached a circulation surpassing approximately 50,000 copies and downloads at this point, which may explain why the junta saw fit to invent an LM claim out of thin air. It already seems apparent that Mr. Watchara’s main goal is stop the sales of the book in Thai bookstores.

It seems that Watchara is prompted to this act of lese majeste repression by the fact that Amsterdam & Peroff have a new and updated version of the White Paper available for download. He is attempting to limit the impact of the second report, but the horse has already bolted. More insidious, though, it is likely that the current wave of lese majeste repression is both an attempt to secure political advantage for the current government and to repress while the world’s attention has shifted to the Middle East.

Update: Amsterdam has more at his blog.

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5 responses

22 02 2011
Tweets that mention The missing headline: Lese majeste | Political Prisoners in Thailand -- Topsy.com

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ♥ Moui ♥, Incognito, Vahn Citis, JB, Terence James and others. Terence James said: RT @Incognito_me: The missing headline: Lese majeste | Political Prisoners in Thailand http://goo.gl/WPYDt [...]

22 02 2011
Mark Abhisit Continues Wagging the Dog | Robert Amsterdam Thailand

[...] Shinawatra, and the editor of SameSky Thanapol Eawsakul.  Subsequently, on Feb. 21, Watchara is reported to have delivered a copy of his complaint and a copy of the White Paper to justices of the Supreme [...]

22 02 2011
Challenges for the state apparatus | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[...] Skip to content HomeAbout usPending casesConvictionsCommentaryTake Action ← Updated: The missing headline: Lese majeste February 22, 2011 · 8:37 [...]

9 04 2011
19 04 2011
Democrat MP jumps on the lese majeste bandwagon | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[...] was last mentioned at PPT when he got twisted out of shape over the Amsterdam & Peroff “White Paper,” on the violence [...]




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