Lèse Majesté: A Challenge to Thailand’s Democracy

12 05 2011

This is the title of an event planned by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand. We are surprised to note that Amnesty International’s Benjamin Zawacki will speak. Is this to signal an AI interest in lese majeste where it has been largely absent for 5 long years. Details below:

8 pm, Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a historian at Thammasat University, is the latest victim of Thailand’s lèse majesté (LM) law, which carries a maximum 15-year jail term for violators. Bangkok’s remand prison is already filling up with others charged and arrested for the over 100-year law meant to protect the image of the country’s monarchy from words or actions deemed insulting. Among the 10 in jail currently waiting for their cases to go to court are Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a political activist and editor-in-chief of the Thailand-based Voice of Taksin and Red Power news magazines.

The spike in the number of LM cases since the September 2006 coup has consequently raised troubling questions about the rights of the freedom of expression and academic freedom in the kingdom. How does Thailand strike a balance between retaining this law, enforced through the Article 112 of the Criminal Code, and its commitment towards democracy? What is behind this trend towards a form of censorship unique in this region?

But the Thai government and officials are not the only ones faced with the daunting challenge of responding to such questions. Even respected international human rights organizations find themselves in the spotlight, reflected by a raging debate in the blogosphere about what should and should not be said.

The FCCT, in keeping with its tradition of being a space for free and open discussion on current and relevant issues, will be hosting a panel discussion by speakers who have been on the front lines of the LM debate. It promises to be an absorbing night.

The speakers are:

Sulak Sivaraksa, an internationally known social critic and Buddhist scholar, who has been charged many times with LM since his first case in 1984. The respected Thai public intellectual was found innocent of LM in 1995, a significant achievement given the high conviction rate for LM cases. The latest charge against him for comments made at a human rights event in 2007 in Khon Kaen was dropped in late 2010.

David Streckfuss, an independent America academic who has specialized in Thailand’s political culture, including the enforcement of Article 112. He is the author of the recently published book, ‘Truth on Trial in Thailand: defamation, treason and lese-majeste’, regarded by some as the definitive publication on the subject.

Benjamin Zawacki, Asia researcher for Thailand, Myanmar and for emergencies for Amnesty International, the London-based global rights watchdog.

A fourth speaker to reflect the official view of the LM law and its relevance to Thailand is still to be confirmed.

Pricing Details:

Members: No cover charge, buffet dinner is 350 baht

Non-members: 300 baht cover charge without buffet dinner or 650 baht for buffet dinner including cover charge


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2 responses

13 05 2011
Anonymous

[…] […]

24 05 2011
องค์การนิรโทษกรรมสากลร่วมวงFCCTถก#112ค่ำนี้ 236นักเขียนดังจากทุกสีลงชื่อผนึกมือแก้ |

[…] ขณะที่เวบไซต์ภาษาอังกฤษ Political Prisoners in Thailand ซึ่งเกาะติดคดีหมิ่นพระบรมเดชานุภาพมาโดยตลอด แสดงความประหลาดใจที่มีชื่อของนายBenjamin Zawacki ผู้แทนAmnesty Internationalเข้าร่วมอภิปรายด้วย "หรือว่านี่เป็นการส่งสัญญาณว่าองค์การนิรโทษกรรมสากลให้ความสนใจต่อคดีหมิ่นพระบรมเดชานุภาพซะที หลังจากแทบจะเงียบเชียบมาตลอด 5 ปีมานี้" […]




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