Hurt feelings not lese majeste?

14 11 2009

While several xenophobic nationalists formerly attached to shadowing national security agencies recently lodged complaints with the police alleging lese majeste against Thaksin Shinawatra, The Times of London and its Asia editor Richard Lloyd Parry, the Democrat Party-led government might have a different view.

In an interview reported by Thailand’s National News Bureau (12 November 2009), Prime Minister’s Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey is cited as saying that “The Times of London editorial criticizing Thailand’s lèse majesté law was aimed at dissembling an interview given by ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to the website [newspaper].” Sathit seemed upset that the “editorial views … the lèse majesté law …[as having] no benefits.” Serial censor Sathit, who knows the political benefits of using lese majeste and computer crimes laws against opponents, warned that the “government would take action against the website [newspaper].”

Sathit then made the interesting claim that “the government rejected Mr Thaksin’s interview because it hurt the feelings of Thai people, not because it violated the lèse majesté law.” PPT emphasizes this, because Sathit then goes on to say that “he would monitor the government’s process to request the interview tape of Mr Thaksin from the news agency closely. He added that Mr Thaksin had intentionally and evidently violated the monarchy and the tape was the most important evidence.”

On the suggestion that the Puea Thai Party “would translate the interview given by Mr Thaksin and publish it,” Sathit warned the opposition party that it “must be responsible for the consequences of its distribution of the translated transcript.”

It seems that the political use of lese majeste is now getting so complicated that even the staunchest advocate of the law is becoming confused.

Update: At least Thanida Tansubhapol at the Bangkok Post (15 November 2009: “Don’t let him get away with it”) is certain about Thaksin and lese majeste. Thanida seems to think that Thaksin’s Cambodia ploy with Hun Sen was to take the heat off his Times interview. Yes, PPT realizes that this is tortured logic and the timing doesn’t match up, but it does provide the flavor of “debate.” Thanida is convinced that the “government should expedite its decision whether to charge Thaksin Shinawatra for lese majeste following his recent interview with Times Online. The case should not disappear from the limelight because Thaksin can’t have any excuses for what he said.”




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