With Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha making it known that he is not just suing Robert Amsterdam, but threatening the same for anyone or any group that brings the Army into disrepute, there are now three “institutions” that are trying to claim they are above and beyond criticism.
While we are tempted to joke about Prayuth having to sue himself, what he is doing is trying to put his “institution” in the same company as the judiciary and the monarchy. Of course, the monarchy is “protected” by lese majeste and computer crimes laws, and the judiciary by contempt laws that are draconian, the military has usually been protected by fear.
As attitudes have changed in recent years, fear has been shown to be less of a deterrent to those who are critical of the military. Hence, Prayuth is seeking legal remedies. However, for all three “institutions,” the political world has changed, while they have become increasingly conservative. We’d expect that their repressive efforts are likely to fail, at least in the mediumand long terms.
And we felt readers might like to view the speech that caused Prayuth to go after Amsterdam and his translator.
Update 1: New Mandala has a video interview with Amsterdam.
Update 2: Siam Voices has a wonderful post detailing Prayuth’s amazing, bizarre and angry dealings with the media in recent weeks, including video.
Update 3: The Toronto Star has an article on Amsterdam’s troubles with Prayuth. Amsterdam is reported as saying that “the growing frequency with which defamation law is being used as a tool to silence opposition is a ‘very worrying trend overall’.” He is further cited:
Amsterdam, who was in the Southeast Asian country during the deadly crackdown that left more than 90 dead, said the complaint isn’t about his speech.
“It’s because our complaint to the ICC is being taken more seriously than the general wants to admit. He is bent on a campaign of denial. He had denied there were snipers. He has denied the United States trained snipers.”
He added later: “In Thailand, the army attacks the civilians every 10 or 15 years; there’s some form of massacre. The Thai army has been involved in the overthrow of 12 governments since 1932 . . . The Thai army has never been held accountable and we’re trying to hold them accountable for the first time in Thai history.”
A defamation complaint, Amsterdam said, means that the next time the lawyer enters Thailand he may be subject to arrest.
“Part of this is to deter me from coming back to Thailand,” he said.
Update 4: Readers will recall that, as part of the Constitutional Court’s efforts to stifle criticism of its politicized decision-making, it enlisted the Criminal Court in an effort to revoke the bail of 24 red shirts (earlier reports said 80!) and have them locked up. Interestingly, the Criminal Court has now delivered a verdict for 17 of these people, with the result being that one, Jeng Dokchik, has been sent back to jail. Notably, on Jatuporn Promphan, the court decided that he used “harsh and impolite words in his speech, but what he said did not insult or threaten Constitution Court judges.” In fact, these judges deserve harsh words and criticism for their (arguably) illegal political interventions and failure to understand even their own military-supplied constitution. We see no reason why these political judges shouldn’t be criticized. Having said that, PPT has a feeling that this verdict is a political compromise. Sending one red shirt back to jail sends a message demanding less criticism of the Constitutional Court, but we have little doubt that the judges at that court would have preferred to have even more red shirts locked up for daring to criticize the corrupt court.
Update 5: The Bangkok Post reports that the Criminal Court ruled that Jeng’s “action as well as his voice, facial expressions and gestures proved that he intended to incite hatred against the court.” The justices seem to be protecting the delicate lads at the Constitutional Court from loud voices, grimaces and nasty gestures…. At the same time, reinforcing the threat to red shirt leaders, while stating that none of the others did anything wrong, the court “has prohibited them travelling abroad or from going up on stage to speak in a way that incites unrest or violates the law.”