Lese majeste and the ruling class

6 05 2012

The World Socialist Web Site has an article by John Roberts – who has been writing on Thailand for WSWS for some time – that rightly questions the use of the anti-democratic lese majeste law by a supposedly democratic Yingluck Shinawatra government.

Beginning with the trial of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk under Article 112, Roberts notes that this case, like many others, “were brought by the previous military-backed government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as a means of intimidating its opponents.”

While Roberts thinks the continuation of the use of the law under Yingluck is due to a “deal” with the elite, we remain unconvinced. Deal or no deal, the question of why the law and trials continue remains.

Roberts argues that:

The lese majeste laws are such a politically sensitive issue because the monarchy has played such a pivotal role in protecting the Thai state apparatus.

In this context, the continuation of lese majeste trials under the Yingluck government is “in part to placate the monarchy and the military.” It also says something about how Thaksin Shinawatra thinks about the Thai state and political rule.

Roberts states:

… Yingluck, her brother Thaksin and their ruling Puea Thai party are just as fearful of widening popular opposition to the monarchy and the state apparatus as their rivals in the political establishment. In the midst of the 2010 protests, the “red shirt” movement of the urban and rural poor went beyond Puea Thai’s demand for early elections and began to voice concerns about social inequality and the political dominance of the country’s traditional elites.

PPT thinks that Roberts is pointing in the right direction on this. He then adds and important consideration:

As the global economic crisis has impacted on Thailand, the economy has slowed and social tensions have continued to rise. The ruling class as a whole has come together to prosecute cases under the reactionary lese majeste laws as one means of menacing anyone who calls into question the existing state apparatus and thereby threatens to undermine crucial mechanisms for bourgeois rule.

Such a view might be “too Marxist” for some, but Roberts is pointing to an explanation that makes considerable sense. It might be remembered that the last time the ruling class came together was to get Thaksin elected to the premiership in an effort to “save” the local business class from the oblivion that threatened from Asian economic crisis, the strictures of the IMF and the Democrat Party’s application of the IMF’s demands.


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