With two updates: Using lese majeste to maintain the social order

17 09 2013

Siam Voices has an account of the university uniform campaign at Thammasat University. That story begins:

The ongoing debate on student uniforms takes a racy turn, as one student’s poster campaign challenges the necessity of uniforms at Thammasat University.

It seems that campaigning against uniforms can lead to lese majeste charges!

These are the posters:


Prachatai recently interviewed Aum Neko, a nickname for a 20 year-old transgender Arts student majoring in German. She’s the student in high heels in two of the three images above.

It is now reported at Khaosod that Aum Neko is the subject of a lese majeste complaint. This complaint has been made by “Ponnipa [Pontipa] Supatnukul, 41, the host of a talk show called “Best of Your Life” which is broadcast on a satellite TV channel, filed the complaint to the police in Nonthaburi Province, invoking Article 112…”. Her complaint relates to events three months ago.

Aum was allegedly interviewed for Pontipa’s talk show. The host claims that Aum “shocked everyone” by “talking outside the topic” and “insulting the higher institution…”. She further claims that Aum′s was “so shocking we could not broadcast the show”, however Pontipa “stored footage of the interview.” She handed the video to police.

So why now, three months later, shout lese majeste? Pontipa says “she decided to pursue a legal action against Ms. Aum because she was incensed by the student′s continued defamation of the monarchy. Ms. Pontipa also alleged that Ms. Aum is encouraging other students to commit similar crimes.”

The royalist Manager ASTV reports that Pontipa told police that “a lecturer in Thammasat University had informed her that Ms. Aum′s student network in Thammasat is funded by unknown sponsors.” Aum says it is “a free group with no name.”

In the Prachatai interview, Aum is asked:

Prachatai: So where is your Thammasat identity? If not in student uniforms, where is it?

“Aum”: It’s in respect for others’ freedom, adherence to democracy, and no support to any form of dictatorship, in particular coups d’état.

The main identity of Thammasat is the 24 June 1932 revolution. Then we had the first constitution on 27 June 1932. Next we had the establishment of Thammasat on 27 June 1934. Therefore, our stance should be preserving the constitution. But these days as it turns out the [university] management is preserving authoritarian power, even making us wear student uniforms; they are preserving the sacredness and power instead of rights and freedom according to the philosophy of the university.

Perhaps this is what is so threatening to the powers that be. The wearing of uniforms is a demand made to enforce and maintain the social order, its hierarchy and the authority of the royalist regime. Those who benefit from this system see a threat to uniforms as another challenge to their power, where the keystone is the monarchy.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post reports that the police have accepted the case.

Update 2: Siam Voices has a useful post on this lese majeste case, with some additional information. First, it is noted that Pontipa seems to have publicized her accusations:

The complainant made sure that the filing of her charge was well-documented as she let somebody film the process at the police station and posted it later on Facebook. She also had a few press members in tow.

Second, an unnamed lecturer at Thammasat has apparently disclosed considerable data from Aum’s university record to Pontipa. Third, it seems that a part of the accusation relates to a Facebook post that “criticized the pre-screening of Royal tribute movies at cinemas, where standing up is mandatory.”