Frank Anderson on lèse majesté

10 05 2009

Frank G. Anderson at UPI Asia.com (8 May 2009: “Respecting the Thai king – and others too”) continues to point to the broader human rights issues associated with lèse majesté. He notes that, “Although many agencies and nongovernmental organizations have already been active in documenting individual human rights cases, two major failings have persisted.”

The first is that “there is little to no protection from continued human rights abuses up to and including kidnapping, political harassment and murder. Secondly, the process for “closure” is too prolonged, with cases generally going on for years before they are concluded, if ever. At the heart of this process is the very institution that protects the Thai monarchy, the Royal Thai Police.”

Referring to LM watch, which PPT posted on a few days ago, Anderson says that, “Finally someone has begun a detailed compilation of lèse majesté.” While PPT is supportive of every move to highlight these cases, this observation is not entirely accurate. LM watch does list more than 30 cases, but the majority of these are yet to include much information. As the site builds, it will become an invaluable resource.

At PPT, we now have information on 14 pending cases and 3 recently concluded cases. The police have said that there are currently 32 active cases. LM watch lists 33, but this includes some old cases, so not all of the current cases being investigated seem to be listed anywhere yet. PPT is keen to know of more cases, and if readers email us with details that can be verified by at least one published source, we will post the details (email us at: thaipoliticalprisoners@gmail.com).

Anderson points to the most recent case of Papatchanan Ching-in and notes: “The crux of the matter in Chingin’s case is whether the Thai courts will view parody and mimicry as legitimate methods of expression when combined with the king’s unique title. She will have a chance to find out, since two days after the coffin burning a group of Yellow Shirts and Thai military, upset with the demonstration, dropped by police headquarters and filed lèse majesté charges against her. Currently out on bail after using a relative’s government position as guarantee, Chingin has denied all charges and insisted that ‘I was not the first’ to use ‘his majesty’ to describe [Privy Council President] General Prem [Tinsulanond].”

Anderson concludes with comments on the Democrat Party-led government’s “public relations campaign, both locally and internationally, to help rectify its image and prevent further deterioration of its credibility.” He says that overseas, the government is disseminating its version of “the truth” about the country so that “foreign diplomats and commercial partners ‘understand’ Thailand’s situation. Internally, the state machinery, comprising the army and a special Protect the King committee, police, Privy Council, government, hard-line traditionalists and a few well-meaning but ineffectual democracy activists, are clamping down on ‘undesirable’ dissent and ‘potentially damaging’ media reports.”


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