In our series on leaked cables, a Wikileaks cable dated 6 February 2009, by Ambassador Eric John, notes the rising tide of lese majeste charges.
He seems somewhat bemused by the Democrat Party’s position as ardent promoters of the use of the law. He comments: “Many of the Democrat Party leaders who have moved into top government positions are cosmopolitan, well-educated people who nevertheless appear to be facilitating growing efforts to clamp down on forms of speech critical of the monarchy. Whether that is primarily out of personal conviction or political advantage, or both, remains unclear.”
What he may have missed is the royalist heritage of the party and the fact that, in 2009, it owed its position to the Army that was also gung-ho on lese majeste and, like the so-called Democrats, dead keen to preserve the existing order that congeals around the monarchy.
John also has a comment on the case of Ji Ungpakorn, stating: “Giles [Ungpakorn] has traditionally attacked all elements of the traditional Thai elite, including all political forces without distinction, XXXX despite earlier pressure from Special Branch, formal charges did not surface until the inauguration of a Democrat-led government.”
On “friends of the monarchy” warning that lese majeste was damaging, John recounts: “15. (C) Several private Americans with long-term experience in Thailand and good connections with palace insiders weighed in ‘as friends’ February 3-5 out of concern that the increased application of lese majeste, without distinction between those who mean ill towards the monarchy and those who otherwise would be ignored, ran the risk of undermining the very institution the law seeks to protect, and which they feel has served Thailand well through the decades. The reception to the message was mixed. Privy Councilors Prem Tinsulanonda, Surayud Chulanont, and Siddhi Savetsila thanked one U.S. businessman for the ‘very good advice; we’ll take it seriously.’ The reaction from the Crown Property Bureau to a similar approach by a second businessman was completely negative; the self-described friend of the monarchy remarked afterwords: ‘these people live in an alternate reality’.” The emphasis is added by PPT.