Pro-lese majeste action

6 04 2011

In our last post, PPT commented on activism aimed at getting rid of lese majeste as a political crime. In this post, we comment on what is effectively the military’s and the military-backed government’s campaigns to stifle discussion of the sometimes nutty but highly politicized and exorbitantly wealthy monarchy and royal family.

Prachatai has two stories that deserve attention.

The first tells of the 1st Army Commander launching the Thais Protect the Land program “to organize the people to fight threats against the monarchy.”

There’s nothing particularity new about this. The Army has, since 1957, been the appointed protector of the monarchy, and there have been numerous programs to link the military and monarchy. Likewise, the military has organized, with the monarchy, numerous “protection” projects, ranging from murderous vigilantes such as Nawapol to Village Scouts and huge propaganda throughout the country (at taxpayer expense, after the U.S. stopped funding it through, USOM, JUSMAG and the CIA).

Yet again, on 2 April, “Lt Gen Udomdet Seetabut, 1st Army Commander and Director of Internal Security Operations Command Region 1, presided over the opening ceremony of a programme to build people’s networks at the Phra Pradaeng district hall in Samut Prakan. Lt Gen Udomdet said that society was beset not only with the problems of crime and drugs, but currently also with offences and attacks against the monarchy by ill-intentioned groups of people in various forms.”

This program will “make the people aware of their duty to protect the nation, religion and king, to instill unity among them and to encourage them to take part in preventing and solving problems which affect internal security and social order…”.

Reflecting the recent royal comment on rumors, the general stated: “… we have to work together with our hearts to find the way to unite the people, particularly for the sake of the monarchy which is subject to attacks and rumours. So I want to ask all Thais to help and understand. If we help each other and have good will, bad things will vanish. Our nation will be secure. The threats to the monarchy will vanish.”

The second story shows how the monarchy is critical to current politics and why lese majeste is central to the royalist struggle to maintain its political regime.

During a seminar for the royalist Democrat Party, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban “called on the people to help protect the monarchy to prevent civil war.”

Suthep Thaugsuban (Bangkok Post photo)

Longtime readers of PPT will recall that it was just over a year ago that many, including royalist and yellow-hued intellectuals took up the civil war discourse.

At a “seminar attended by about 1,000 local party members as well as core leaders such as Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij, Deputy Interior Minister Chamni Sakdiset and Bangkok MP and former Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhin” Suthep blamed (almost) all problems and conflicts on the red shirts amd Puea Thai Party, equating them with communists! He added the yellow shirts for good measure.

Here’s what he is quoted as saying:

Now the Pheu Thai Party and Thaksin are using communist methods to mobilize the mass. So the people have to be aware of this. The country is currently beset with problems because of the red shirts, the Pheu Thai Party, the men in black—an armed force fighting for Thaksin to return to power, and the yellow shirts who think that they have power and mass and can do whatever they want, attacking everybody who holds differing opinions and seizing Government House, although they [currently] have only 300 people.

All of this is seen as a threat to the monarchy, associating red shirts with attacks on the institution that is so central to the royalist regime that has been established since the 2006 coup:

I ask everybody to help protect the monarchy, because now when [we] open the websites of the red shirts, we’ll see only attacks against the institution, which is unacceptable to me. I insist that my talking about the institution is not to gain votes, but for national security. If [we] don’t protect the institution which binds our hearts and minds, we’ll risk civil war….

And, in a remarkable addition to his comments, after attacking the red shirts and Puea Thai Party, Suthep acknowledged his own party’s weakness when he called on that party “to fight under the democratic system, and not to exploit its political mass mobilization during the general elections.”

Lese majeste allegations are thought by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime to potentially diminsih red shirt mobilization.


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