Lese majeste debated II

26 02 2011

2Bangkok.com has a comment on an article in The Nation that also generated a PPT post. The comment, from a determinedly anti-red shirt and pro-coup site, is worth dissection.

Recall that The Nation’s report states that “parliamentary debate on the government’s second-year performance report was dominated by nearly four hours of argument about whether the government had done enough to protect the monarchy, especially in the case of one particular WikiLeaks’ cable. Both sides ended up accusing each other of being disloyal to the throne.”

2Bangkok.com says:

While it may be confusing to suddenly hear Jatuporn [Promphan] calling for more lese majeste prosecutions and web censorship, it simply reflects the Red movement’s role as a political tool.

First, this shows the Red Shirts acting as a mouthpiece for Thaksin [Shinawatra] and continuing to attack the Privy Council for him. At least at the highest levels of leadership, the movement shows no signs of morphing into a generalized democracy movement as some have hoped.

Secondly, it may also be an attempt to temper the Red Shirts’ image by speaking on a traditional Thai value such as protecting the monarchy. This is to enable other Red Shirt leaders to be accepted as MP candidates in the Peau Thai Party. This is especially important considering the revelations that major power brokers like Sanan were insisting that Thaksin break ties with the Reds and stop orchestrating their rallies as the only way for him to return to the country. On top of this are the Peau Thai MP groupings that are eager appear as a moderate force that can be included in a future coalition and thus are hesitant to welcome the Red Shirts’ revolutionary and attention-grabbing energy into their party.

It is telling that 2Bangkok.com makes no assessment of the the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s resort to censorship and lese majeste. It is also telling that the comment tends to treat the red shirts as a monolithic pro-Thaksin movement when others are showing the schisms within it. Not seeing these developments is what makes the “Thaksin-as-puppet-master” discourse is possible. Noticeable, too, is the belief that “protecting the monarchy” is a “traditional Thai value.” This line is always somewhat amusing when anyone who has read the Ayutthaya chronicles knows that coup, regicide and intrigue against the monarchy are far more “traditional.”

Of course, this is by no stretch of the imagination (or memory) a new development. Back in early January, PPT posted on a Prachatai report comments on the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship urging “the government to take legal action against two Privy Councilors and a former Prime Minister for their comments about the Crown Prince” over comments reported in the same Wikileaks cable. And, if we go back further, there were plenty of lese majeste and disloyalty allegations being thrown between pro- and ant-Thaksin groups before the 2006 coup.

We’d also note that the suggested “distancing” of moderate elements in the Puea Thai Party from the red shirt leaders seems to be confounded by alliances being made.

Clearly, Jatuporn was making a core red shirt claim related to double standards. That said, PPT maintains that any use of lese majeste strengthens the amart regime. The use of such claims confirms a definition of ideological hegemony. Here we see even the opposition trying to make “new” kinds of political claims finding that they must occupy the turf that defends a symbol of control, repression and the murder of  many political opponents over past decades.


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