The reaction to the lese majeste sentencing of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk has unleashed a torrent of negative international criticism and, while muted by various laws, domestic criticism has been heard as well.
Predictably, the ultra-royalists reaction has been one of exultation, for the madder PAD types believe that the monarchy is under threat. Rather than recognizing that royalists are destroying it by their demented actions, they prefer to conjure Thaksin Shinawatra as the financier of republicans. Thus they defend the kangaroo courts and cheer when enemies are locked up for years. They attack each and every one of those who criticize lese majeste convictions with xenophobic zeal. They damn foreigners for failing to understand “Thai culture” and denigrate Thai critics as dangerously “un-Thai.” They justify repression and censorship as absolutely required to “protect” the monarchy.
That the conviction of Somyos further extends the repressive scope of lese majeste is cause for royalist celebration.
The Nation notes that his conviction was the “first time a magazine editor has been sentenced to jail for violating the lese majeste law…”. In a sense, though, this chilling application mirrors the manner in which webmasters are held responsible for each and every comments posted on their sites.
The judgement deserves consideration for the way that the courts, as a bastion of royalist reactionary politics, interpret and broaden the scope of the law and how they justify this unconstitutional extension of “their” law.
… the four judges ruled that although the two articles never directly mentioned the name of HM the King or Rama I, their context suggested the fictitious name of “Luang Naruebarn” was in fact a reference to HM the King.
An unofficial translation of the summary of the verdict is available from Prachatai. Rather than reproduce it in full, PPT merely offers some commentary:
The plaintiff charged that in the period between the daytime of 15 February 2010 and the daytime of 15 March 2010, the defendant defamed, insulted and threatened His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the Head of the Kingdom of Thailand….
We looked at the Thai version and it doesn’t say “head,” but refers to the monarch of the kingdom.
A first Voice of Taksin magazine article, which did not mention the king by name or title, defamed, insulted and threatened him because it:
conveys the message that His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was the person who gave the order for the massacre in the 6 October 1976 event, and had been planning situations to slaughter a number of people mercilessly after the verdict to seize Thaksin Shinawatra’s assets.
The judges this was “unfounded.” In fact, while a good historical case can be made that the palace fomented murderous right-wing vigilantism that saw royalists go on a killing spree, no single order is ever likely to be revealed. Another article, which also did not mention the king by name or title, was construed offensive as it:
… conveys the message that His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was implicated in various conflicts and bloodshed in Thailand, and that His Majesty masterminded initiatives which dismantled pro-democratic movements.
This was also said to be “unfounded.” Again, though, very good academic accounts of this king’s failure to promote democratic progress while supporting military coups and authoritarian regimes are already available. Ignoring this, the court decided that while neither of the articles mentions the king by name, they were:
written with the intention to link past events together. When events of the past are brought together, it can be implied that they refer to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
“Implied” lese majeste has now been used against Somyos and Jeng Dokchik or Yoswaris Chuklom. This is a chilling interpretation of an already draconian law.
The court defends this real expansion of the law with threats. In another story at The Nation, it is reported that the “Criminal Court’s chief judge yesterday countered criticism by foreign organisations…”. Thawee Prachuablarb “warned that the court might take legal action against those who unfairly attack it.” We aren’t sure why “fairness” is used here, for this is the last concern of the court. He added that
the lese majeste law reflected Thailand’s culture, which is different from those of other countries. “It is narrow-minded to describe the court as barbaric or as an organisation that protects the monarchy,” he said.
Of course the culturalist argument is the usual royalist nonsense also peddled in palace propaganda. The idea that the court is not “an organisation that protects the monarchy” is simply ludicrous and a lie of royal proportions. However, we agree that the court is not barbaric; it simply serves and protects its feudal masters.
Update: Several readers have asked PPT to post the charges against Somyos. THese have been at the page we maintain for Somyos, now under Convictions. For ease of access, we reproduce our links here: His charges may be seen in this PDF in ไทย or this unofficial translation in English (Warning: readers should note that this document includes reproductions of the material determined to be in breach of the lese majeste law. Downloading it and/or distributing it may lead to a similar charge of lese majeste).