Updated: Reporting Ampol’s lese majeste death

10 05 2012

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that the death of lese majeste convict Ampol Tangnopakul has predictably “reignited heated criticism of the lese majeste law and the way it has been used by the authorities against suspected offenders.”

If the death of an old, sick and poor grandfather who allegedly committed slanders of the most powerful and wealthiest family in the country in just four short text messages didn’t ignite criticism of the lese majeste law, then the society would be rotten to the core.

The Post reports that as the the news of Ampol’s death leaked out, “dozens of red shirt activists [went] to the hospital and the Criminal Court … to condemn the lese majeste law.”

Those red shirts brought “funeral wreaths, red roses and lilies to pay respect to Ampon. At the Criminal Court, they tied black ribbons on fences to protest against the verdict sentencing him to jail.” As well, there were banners that condemned the lese majeste law.

Some of those at the gathering criticized the Puea Thai government for its spinlessness and others reckoned the leadership of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship hadn’t done enough to help imprisoned red shirt, “especially those who have been convicted under Section 112.”

Red shirt community radio 104.1 attacked Article 112 and condemned those responsible for Ampol’s death to “rot in hell for seven generations.”

While the red shirt leadership was criticized, Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn lamented Ampol’s death stating:

The people must learn of this case. What were the amataya [ruling elite] Thailand so afraid of that they wouldn’t allow Ah Kong to be bailed out? Now that this has happened, who will take the responsibility for his death?

Such reactions seem entirely justified in the circumstances of this most unnecessary of deaths.

Meanwhile, reactions to Ampon’s death are still as polarized as during his trial last year.

However, as another report at the Bangkok Post makes clear, Ampol’s death has unleashed political extremism on the part of some royalists. Apparently some of these people “feel the demise of a man accused of lese majeste is a case of karma at work.”

For PPT, such attitudes say little about Buddhism and more about royalists  lodged in a world of superstition and adherence to vile symbols of a feudal past, as this shows:

He [Ampol] was punished according to the principle of karma…. He had offended the institution of monarchy despite the institution’s dedication to the nation.

The deep strain of unfeeling nastiness amongst these conservative royalists is shown when those who expressed sympathy for Ampol’s family were chastised: “[This] kindness is misplaced. Giving attention to an ungrateful person. This is madness…”.

Some apparently called for a “post-mortem examination be carried out in a transparent manner.” The call was apparently for “[Khunying] Pornthip [Rojanasunand] and other doctors should be brought in to carry out an autopsy to prevent his death [from] being [politically] exploited….”.

The problem with this call is that it is already a politicized claim. Pornthip is deeply superstitious and deeply royalist. Not only that, but her position as a member of Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations makes her political loyalties apparent.

Meanwhile, at The Nation it is suggested that Ampol’s death puts increased pressure on the Yingluck Shinawatra government and its timidity on lese majeste:

His death will most likely rekindle controversy about the lese majete law, which led to his conviction and a staggering 20-year prison term…. While the death has politically embarrassed the Democrat Party, under whose reign the charges were brought against Amphon, Yingluck Shinawatra’s government, which has vowed never to support any moves to amend the law, might face pressure from the red shirts.

Assistant Professor Puangthong Pawakapan of Nitirat and Chulalongkorn University sounded a timely warning:

This is the biggest tragedy of the law. The more it is enforced, the less merciful it becomes. He wouldn’t have died if he had been granted bail and given the opportunity to get proper medical care….

The unnecessary death of Ampol should be a clarion call to all who care for human rights, justice and freedom to stand up and trash the draconian lese majeste law that does nothing more than protect the most powerful, not from slander, but to permit them to rule and exploit.

Update: At Prachatai, Pravit Rojanaphruk comments on some of the royalist commentary on the death of Ampol. As Pravit points out, it is “clear that they [royalists] will blame it [Ampol’s death in custody] on anything or anyone but the draconian and undemocratic law and themselves.” They royalists are engaging in a black fiesta of delusional conspiracy theories.

For PPT, what we see is an attempt to blame anyone but the monarchy, Abhisit Vejjajiva, the military, or themselves. Lese majeste kills and royalists justify this in terms of protecting the most powerful and the wealthiest in society over the weak and poor.

We wonder if Abhisit feels any remorse for being complicit in Ampol’s death. After all, like school prefects, he and his secretary snitched to the headmaster when they received a nasty SMS. Most people would have deleted it and got on with life. Not these elite lads it seems.




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