Christian Science Monitor on lese majeste

30 07 2009

Thanks to Bangkok Pundit for spotting a new article by Simon Montlake in the CSM (26 July 2009: “Thailand cracks down on Web users for royal ‘slurs'”).It is important that the international press continue to report on lese majeste as the Thai press self censors.

The article begins: “Using a combination of high-tech online sleuthing and a century-old royal defamation law, Thai authorities are tightening the screws on free speech here during a sensitive time for its influential monarchy.”

As a footnote, it is remarkable that Montlake quotes one Benjamin Zawacki, a researcher on Southeast Asia for Amnesty International, when Amnesty International has essentially refused to take a stand on lese majeste in Thailand. AI’s record on this issue is lamentable.

Montlake states: “As in China, the Internet offers far more freedom than Thailand’s mainstream media for discussing taboo topics. But that started to change in 2006, after the military ousted popular Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.” That’s true, although most international blogs are blocked in China, including PPT.

In a remarkably interesting comment,  senior official at the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, Aree Jiworarak,is cited as saying that  “90 percent of the sites the ministry blocks are outside Thailand, complicating investigations of lèse-majesté.”

Aree then says that the “royal family is informed about his investigations, as well as similar work by other government agencies.” While he then denies that this means that the royal family “push for prosecutions,” he adds. “We don’t want people to think that the royal family are behind these arrests.”

But they are well-informed about all of this and complicit in reducing freedom and the political use of lese majeste.



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