Council on Foreign Relations on lese majeste regression

12 09 2011

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Joshua Kurlantzick has posted an article where he considers the unique trajectory of lese majeste repression in Thailand. He begins:

Over the past five years Thailand’s Lèse-Majesté law, by far the strictest in the world, went from being scarcely used to being used an extraordinary number of times annually.

Noting the huge expansion of cases since the 2006 military coup, he notes that

Thailand has in recent years broadened the law in order to prosecute Thais who have allegedly insulted the monarchy on the Internet, in blogs, and using social media; one U.S. citizen recently was arrested in Thailand for just such a “crime.”

Kurlantzick is obviously correct to note that lese majeste “has become a political weapon”:

Royalists in the military, the bureaucracy, and the Democrat Party have used it to crush dissent.

On initial optimism that Yingluck Shinawatra’s government might do something about the horrid law, Kurlantzick  states:

Allies of Yingluck say that she is personally sympathetic to trying to reduce use of the law and reform it in the long run. After her election, for example, bloggers posted an interview she had given in which she said that she did not want the law to be misused.

But that hope is receding as nothing has been done and arrests have continued. Kurlantzick notes:

A group of concerned scholars have submitted to Yingluck a public letter calling on her to review Thailand’s laws on Lèse-Majesté and on cyber crimes. They also have called on her to push for the release on bail of people facing Lèse-Majesté charges, many of whom are being held without bail. So far, Yingluck and her cabinet have not given any signs that they are taking notice.

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