More MFA claptrap

30 06 2012

In a recent post PPT commented on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs defense of monarchism and the lese majeste law.

In other posts earlier in the month, we reproduced the Asian Legal Resource Center’s statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council on continuing attacks on freedom of expression in Thailand and the death in custody of lese majeste convict Ampol Tangnopakul.

We now have the response of the government via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. PPT won’t detail it all. Find the text here and the video here (in Thailand, we found it very slow). It’s a deathly boring piece of propaganda, so we won’t go into detail and provide just a few comments.

The statement has it that:

Like in other democratic societies, the people in Thailand enjoy the rights to freedom of opinion and expression. Differing views are aired widely and there are vibrant debates on all aspects of life.

This is a misrepresentation. No one engages in uncensored debate on the monarchy. While there has been more discussion of the monarchy under huge popular pressure, debate remains anything but vibrant. No one can criticize the judiciary in any “vibrant” way.

The statement continues:

… what has become the challenge for us as well as many others is how to strike the right balance between the right to freedom of expression and the rights of the rule of law.

We would have thought this a slip of the tongue as we can’t think of how a concept like “rule of law” has “rights.” However, we think the interpretation is that the Thai delegation is saying that the “democratic society” that the MFA calls Thailand, where “the people in Thailand enjoy the rights to freedom of opinion and expression,” is a fiction because the laws don’t allow freedom of expression.

The MFA continues:

As regards to Thailand’s lese majeste law, the Thai delegations would like to stress that the law itself is not aimed at curbing the rights and the legitimate exercise of academic freedom, including debates about the monarchy and the institution. Issues that have arisen with regard to the lese majesté law lie not in any fundamental problem with the law itself, but in the abuse of the law for political gain in the context of political conflicts which have been ongoing in Thailand for the past few years.

Of course, this statement, by moving the goalpost, immediately contradicts the earlier statements. “Vibrant” discussion is not limited to “academic debate.” The statement that the law is good but is used by political actors to curb rights and limit expression. The most significant actors are ultra-royalists, the Abhisit Vejjajiva government and the military. Other plaintiffs have included the Privy Council. The law is the problem; get rid of it and it can’t be abused.

The last statement in this paragraph is:

Indeed, an ongoing lively public debate has been taking place on the lese majesté law to which the Thai people will find an appropriate solution for themselves.

Of course, the government, the military, the palace, the opposition, and many more have stated that there will be no change to the law, ever. So much for “lively debate.” The royalist elite want no debate on Article 112 at all!

We are not sure if the MFA enjoys looking stupid and deceitful to international audiences.



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