Lese majeste, repression and The Economist

5 02 2011

The latest issue of The Economist has an editorial piece on lese majeste and the Computer Crimes Act. It begins with the trial of Prachatai’s Chiranuch Premchaiporn, lamenting the absurdity of the charges and possible sentence.

It adds that the “trial of Ms Chiranuch is an unwelcome reminder that laws on lèse-majesté, once used only sparingly, are now deployed with ferocious frequency—more for political gain than to protect the monarchy.”

Lèse-majesté charges “each year has leapt, from just 2.5 on average in the 1980s to 164 in 2009. Many of the accused are jailed. The Computer Crime Act has also had a powerful effect.” No-one know for sure how many URLs are blocked by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. Estimates range from55,000 to almost 500,000.

The Economist makes the all too obvious point that the “increase in repression dates from the coup against the populist prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, in 2006.”

It adds:

Today the conservative government of Abhisit Vejjajiva says lèse-majesté laws should be used vigorously to protect the king from criticism and prevent him from being dragged into party politics. But it acknowledges over-enthusiastic application and has set up a committee to review this.

Unaccountably, the article cites Pavin Chachavalpongpun who, somewhat like Ji Ungpakorn, see the monarchy as a tool for others, with the report adding: “How far the ailing King Bhumibol supports the use of the law to protect his name, no one is sure.”

Such speculation seems a little odd to PPT; after all, lese majeste has been on the books for the whole of the reign, so if the king hated it, it’d be gone.

Sulak Sivarkasa is cited confirming this when he claims that his most recent case, in 2009[we think it is 2008], involved a critical essay on the monarchy in an obscure journal. He was arrested, but found out while dining with a public prosecutor that his case had been dropped.”

As far as we are aware, Sulak’s case remains on the prosecutor’s books, along with several others that date back to 2007 and 2008.


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