Lese majeste politics

7 11 2012

Pravit Rojanaphruk begins his story on the ditching of the citizen-proposed lese majeste bill at The Nation with this:

Hope that the lese majeste law might be amended under the Yingluck Shinawatra government was unceremoniously dashed last week.

In fact, they were dashed during the election campaign and soon after. The timid government decided that lese majeste was simply too divisive and that having the military brass and palace on the war path accusing Puea Thai of disloyalty was best avoided.

Pravit refers to House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranond’s rejection and claims by Somsak’s spokesperson that “the issue was tied to the monarchy, the current charter forbids any changes of law related to the institution…”.

PPT thinks this is the usual spinelessness on the monarchy and doubts that the claim is sound. But legal soundness means nothing in royalist Thailand.

Pravit reckons that the summary rejection of the Campaign Committee for Amendment of Article 112 bill “will likely send people to seek other means to undermine the blanket censorship imposed on anything mildly critical of the monarchy institution…”. He adds that:

The shutting down of legal debate is unlikely to curb the sense of injustice suffered by Thais who value freedom of expression and who feel that it is long overdue for scrutiny and open criticism of the monarchy like those in the United Kingdom, Japan and Spain. They feel this is a fundamental right and that they can always compare how monarchies in other democratic countries are criticised and made publicly accountable.

We agree. PPT also agrees with Pravit’s observation that:

Some defenders of the law say the majority of Thais are not intelligent or mature enough to be able to separate fact from fiction, and lies from reliable information. Others may in fact be afraid that people are in fact smart enough and able think for themselves. While many ultra-royalists will readily venture to tell Thais and foreigners alike that most if not all Thais love and revere HM the King, these very people contradict themselves when they express fear about what may become of the institution if people are suddenly free, able to access and critically discuss, or even criticise the monarchy.

As long as this political and repressive law remains and continues to be used and abused, royalists and the palace itself remain defensive and skittish, knowing that there is remarkable dissatisfaction with the status quo and that there are some major obstacles for the palace ahead, including the greying of the palace, more health problems, and succession.


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