Defending the royalist system

16 12 2011

The Bangkok Post has a remarkable and revealing story on the front page of its Friday print edition, with the truly astounding headline: “Royalists step into lese majeste row.”

It is as if the Post thinks – or wants to convey the impression – that royalists haven’t been involved! What utter nonsense! From the time of the 2006 coup, palace, royalists and royalism have been at the center of political debate and “loyalty” and lese majeste has been the tool of political choice for royalists attacking opponents. That’s why the Democrat Party-led government under Abhisit Vejjajiva processed more lese majeste cases in two years than in the previous three decades.

The Post’s article is also revealing of how royalists are pursuing the battle against the elected government. It matters little to the royalists that the Puea Thai Party-led government under Yingluck Shinawatra has been pursuing lese majeste with considerable and unnecessary vigor, for the royalists know that any Shinawatra government is “disloyal.”


The royalist group Siam Samakkhi (United Siam), often fronted by yellow-shirt-cum-whatever-color-denotes-royalism leader Tul Sitthisomwong (in the Post account he is just a “member” of Siam Samakkhi), has decided that international comment by the UN, the US and the European Union, amongst others, is “attempting to interfere” in the country’s judicial system. This refers to international commentary regarding lese majeste and draconian sentencing, seemingly inconsistent with Thailand’s international obligations. It seems that, for Siam Samakkhi, only old men, big shots and those with bags of money are permitted to interfere with the judicial system.

Tul, not the brightest of sparks, claims that he was surprised by the negative international reactions to the draconian sentences the politicized Thai courts are currently throwing about in some bizarre lese majeste decisions. Tul blames Thaksin Shinawatra: “They [the international community] might have received some information from lobbyists.”

That is yellow-shirt code for Thaksin has bought the media/governments/international organizations. That has been a pretty common yellow-shirt claim over the past few years. Tul then claims: “The fact is the defendants went through a proper trial.” The less said about that lie the better, but royalists everywhere will agree with Tul. In fact, many of them would prefer not to even have to bother with trials for these “ungrateful children” who deign to say anything critical about “father.”

Siam Samakkhi reckons international critics lack “understanding of the constitutional monarchy” simply because “they called for reforms of the lese majeste law.” Given that just about every constitutional monarchy in the world has reformed lese majeste laws or reformed their use, this might simply suggest that Siam Samakkhi is out of touch with the modern world.

Siam Samakkhi leader, General Somjet Boonthanom, who is also one of the appointed senators that result from the 2007 military junta’s constitution, and who, while a senator, actively campaigned against the Puea Thai Party in the July election, activates decades-old defenses of lese majeste, throws in the defence of national security shibboleth, and adds new twists. Somjet claims that lese majeste is a protection against “hate speech.”

Confirming a point PPT has been making for some time, Siam Samakkhi alleged that the government was “shying away from protecting the constitutional monarchy and being tolerant to violations of the law and attempts to undermine faith in the monarchy by a politically driven group.” Of course, all of the current evidence is that this is complete nonsense, but as we have said, these royalists want the elected government to do its dirty royalist work.

You know the royalists are caballing and agitating when yellow-shirt leader Suriyasai Katasila, now claimed to be “coordinator of the Green Politics group,” also gets in on the “loyalty” act. He has gone off the deep end, warning “advocates of attempts to reform the lese majeste law not to be used as political tools by those with an intent to subvert the institution. While some advocates seek to reform the law to prevent it from being politically manipulated, others want it to be abolished entirely…. He said some of those who support reforms may be misled and are being used by those with a hidden agenda…”.

While this might seem like something of a Chicken Little claim in the current atmosphere of lese majeste repression, Suriyasai really does seem to make the claim that the sky is falling in order to rouse political emotions against the elected government and all those seen to support it, who, by his definition, are political tools of evil ones, republicans or misled. A bit like earlier claims about those who voted for pro-Thaksin parties being ignorant or paid.

The royalists have been all over the news and commentary programs on television as well, sprouting this message.

Meanwhile, the rote-learners over at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have defended the indefensible and supported the diligent use of the lese majeste law, “saying article 112 is not aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of opinion and expression nor the legitimate exercise of academic freedom, including debates about the monarchy as an institution.” That’s why academics are now scared witless about lese majeste charges. Thani Thongphakdi, director-general of the Department of Information continues to lie blatantly and unrepentantly on lese majeste while mouthing the words simultaneously used by Siam Samakkhi to defend Article 112.

The current government should draw a lesson from this kind of report. No matter how many people they arrest and jail for lese majeste, these royalists will never see it as a “loyal” government. Doing the work of these royalist zealots for them is a remarkably dumb political strategy. The sky may be falling as Suriyasai and others of his ilk claim, but their attacks (and the government’s lese majeste actions) will do little to arrest it. Indeed, they advance the process.



One response

3 02 2012
Updated: Lese majeste in the news I « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] we said about six weeks ago, no matter how many people this government arrests and jails for lese majeste, the royalists will […]

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