Using lese majeste to repress opposition

15 04 2011

Most reasonable observers – and here we must obviously exclude the U.S.’s State Department – would consider that the current political regime nominally led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the royalist Democrat Party has “achieved” more than any previous government in its use of lese majeste as a tool for political repression.

After all, this government has used lese majeste charges against more political opponents than any previous administration. It even eclipses the former rightist and royalist regime led by Privy Councilor Thanin Kraivixien.

But apparently this dubious record as one of the most politically repressive civilian regimes ever in Thailand is insufficient. The Bangkok Post reports that the regime has decided to use lese majeste even more vigorously.

As PPT has noted previously, this has a lot to do with the regime’s huge effort to prevent voters re-electing the party they hate, the Puea Thai Party. Part of this corrupt process must necessarily involve efforts to censor opposition media.

As a result, the “Internal Security Operations Command is taking a closer look at community radio stations and websites broadcasting and publishing content which could be deemed offensive to the monarchy.”

PPT expects nothing less from this royalist regime as it is desperate to stay in power.

The Post report states that “Isoc’s 6th Operation Centre, which has responsibility for promoting royal projects, has been instructed to strengthen monitoring work.” It is expected to coordinate with police.

And who is behind this? None other that Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, who also heads ISOC. Prayuth is clearly worried that the red shirt/Puea Thai Party opposition has a real chance of victory. And following the Army’s failure to adequately rig the election in 2007, Prayuth is taking no chances this time.

It is stated that: “Legal action has been taken against lese majeste offenders in several forms but Isoc can’t reveal the details…”. PPT understands that this includes processing older cases and seeking the arrest of those charged as long ago as 2008.

Responding to Thaksin Shinawatra’s call to stop using the monarchy for political purposes, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has upped the stakes, (again) accusing Thaksin of challenging the monarchy. He also attacked red shirt leaders.

Suthep “insisted yesterday that Jatuporn Prompan, a Puea Thai MP and red shirt leader, had made inappropriate remarks about the monarchy at a recent red shirt rally.”

The message is clear. The regime is using every weapon it has in its formidable arsenal. While lese majeste may seem a bit “mad dog” and potentially highly divisive, it is also a “last gasp” win-at-any-cost strategy, a bit like closing down the airports in 2008.

We believe that the royalists will not tolerate any election loss this time. If they believe they will lose, they may even stymie an election.