Reuters on lese majeste

8 12 2011

Reuters has a long and useful report on what it calls a “war on royal slurs.” It begins with an Orwellian image: “From a windowless room in a Bangkok suburb, computer technicians scour thousands of websites, Facebook pages and tweets night and day. Their mission: to suppress what is regarded as one of Thailand’s most heinous crimes — insulting the monarchy.”

Indeed, being accused of insulting the monarchy is now a crime that gets people locked up for terms that exceed those for some of the major crimes like murder and drug dealing. Indeed, when the murderers are state officials from the police and military, they are seldom even investigated, while huge teams scour the internet for “even the faintest criticism of 84-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej…”, using “the world’s most draconian lese-majeste laws.”

The Washington-based pro-democracy and rather conservative Freedom House claims that lese majeste and the computer crimes laws provide officials “carte blanche to clamp down on any form of expression.”

The current government gets a free pass: “Some Thais had hoped Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose party members are among those accused of lese-majeste, would reform the law. But she is treading carefully, aware her opponents in the military and royalist establishment could seize on any hint of disloyalty to the monarchy to bring her down.” That’s true, but some of her government’s own people have been beating the lese majeste drum very loudly.

Under Information and Communications Technology Minister Anudit Nakorntab “Thais who received anti-monarchy messages by email or on their personal Facebook walls and failed to delete them were also in violation.” A MICT official stated: “We would take them to court and prosecute them…. It is against the law to do such a thing and as a result, they will be fined and jailed.”

It is going to get messier and more repressive by the week, especially as the Yingluck government has fallen into the royalist trap. It is a trap that is impossible to get out of, not least when spineless ministers sprout “loyalty” as mantra. Maybe Yingluck should sit down and read the Wikileaks cables to see what the royalist amart can do to elected prime ministers.






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