Defending lèse majesté

21 02 2009

On the day that Harry Nicolaides was deported to Australia, The Bangkok Bugle, 21 February 2009: “In defence of lese majeste”, a blog that claims to provide news, views and opinions from Thailand’s media industry, includes a commentary on lèse majesté that makes claims frequently seen in the comments section of other blogs. That is, that lèse majesté is the same as laws of libel and defamation in other parts of the world and that the law has only been used against those who don’t stick to the facts. The final piece of advice is: “Stick to facts and you’ll be fine. If a story is likely to cause damage and isn’t factually correct then it’s likely going to run into problems – not just in Thailand but anywhere in the world.” Bangkok Bugle does not discuss the political nature of lèse majesté. It might be recalled that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva recently made the same comparison of lèse majesté to contempt laws.

Fortunately Bangkok Bugle’s readers, in their comments, challenge and correct some of these illusions, as does Bangkok Pundit, 21 February 2009: “Lese Majeste : Similiar to Libel and Defamation?”. Bangkok Pundit also points to the excellent unpublished paper by David Strekfuss and Thanapol Eawsakul, “Speaking the Unspeakable: Lèse-Majesté and the Monarchy in Thailand” (the latter author is the editor of the controversial magazine Fah Diew Kan and  faces two charges/accusations of lèse majesté). The paper is available here, downloadable from Academic Papers and Articles section.

In VOA News, 21 February 2009: “Australian, in Jail for Insulting Thai Monarchy, Receives Royal Pardon”, well-known human rights lawyer Somchai Homlaor is quoted. Journalist Ron Corben cites Somchai as stating: “foreigners, who are charged under laws protecting the monarchy, generally are pardoned.” Somchai is then quoted: “The lese majeste law in Thailand, the penalty is high…. We have this law based on our tradition or customary law that every Thai person should respect our king. So this cannot be expected that the foreigner should respect or regard the monarchy the same as the Thai.”

PPT notes that Somchai has defended Sulak Sivaraksa on his  lèse majesté charges, but we wonder about this quotation, human rights and the political use of lèse majesté.

Police Colonel Yanpol Yangyuen, chairman of the Thai Webmaster Association and also deputy secretary-general of the Office of the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission defends censorship and explains that lèse majesté is a matter of national security in Bangkok Post, 21 February 2009: “Internet police defend lese majeste”.

Finally, the conservative Bangkok Post has an editorial, 22 February 2009: “Royal pardon shows King’s generosity and fairness”, which reflects on the political nature of lèse majesté but concludes with the expected refrain, that “insults against the Royal Family should not be tolerated, and it should be left to His Majesty to decide if the guilty parties should be pardoned.”


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28 02 2009
New: The Nation on lèse majesté « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] week ago, PPT reported that the Bangkok Post had reflected on the political nature of lèse majesté, concluding with the refrain that […]

6 03 2009
Who wanted Harry in gaol?-PPT « FACT - Freedom Against Censorship Thailand

[…] week ago, PPT reported that the Bangkok Post had reflected on the political nature of lèse majesté, concluding with the refrain that […]

15 03 2009
New: Abhisit Vejjajiva at Oxford: charmer? « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] and pointed to similar laws in European countries. For commentary on this, see PPT’s notes here, here and […]




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