Five years of PPT

21 01 2014

It is with a large measure of melancholy that we mark 5 years of PPT. When we sputtered into life as a collaborative effort to bring more of an international spotlight on the hugely expanded use of the lese majeste and computer crimes laws by the government led by Abhisit Vejjajiva and his not-so-democratic Democrat Party. That regime’s use of the laws was to silence and jail political opponents.

On our second and third anniversaries there was not much celebration. Indeed, on the second anniversary the lese majeste situation was at one of its peaks of repression and harassment and on the third, there was great controversy regarding the law as royalists struggled to maintain it as a foundation for the royalist state.

In the fourth year we were able to say that having a popularly-elected government has made a difference. The huge spike in charges that began following the 2006 military-palace coup has been reduced under the Yingluck Shinawatra government, elected in July 2011. The remaining red shirt political prisoners are in a special prison where conditions are improved for them.

That said, the Yingluck government did not dare touch the draconian laws, and the political trials of lese majeste victims continued, and the intimidation of those who speak out against a wealthy and politicized monarchy continued through the use of these draconian laws.

The past year has been a disappointment. Under the Yingluck government, new lese majeste cases went forward and the politicized courts made decisions that were, frankly, bizarre. And being bizarre in the strange and loopy world of lese majeste is quite a remarkable feat. By “remarkable” we mean really very, very strange to the point of grotesque.

When we began Political Prisoners in Thailand on 21 January 2009, we hoped it would be a temporary endeavor. Instead, 5 years later, we are still at it. We get tired, frustrated and angry at the nonsensical actions of the judiciary, its hopelessly royalist bent and the failures and timidity of the Yingluck government, but we hope that we can keep going until every political prisoner is out of jail. With Darunee Charnchoensilpakul serving a massive 15 years, we could be at it for a long time to come.

In recent years, not only did the number of cases grow exponentially between 2006 and 2011, with especially harsh sentences handed down but we have recently seen the definition of what constitutes a crime under lese majeste extended to include implied lese majeste. The high-profile case of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, jailed since 30 April 2011, continued through unsuccessful appeals. And there have been more cases.

The anti-democratic lot currently protesting are the same ultra-royalists who we have opposed since we began, and we are sure that any success for them will result in worse outcomes for political freedom, and especially on the lese majeste front. We hope they are soon defeated.

Over the past 5 years PPT has had more than 1.35 million page views. That doesn’t make us big league in the blogging world, but the level of interest in lese majeste internationally has certainly increased and there is far more attention to the issue than there was four years ago. In addition, the international reporting of issues related to lese majeste and the monarchy is not as trite as it was back when we began. We hope that we have contributed something to this.

We want to thank our readers for sticking with us through all the attempts by the Abhisit and the Yingluck censors to block PPT. We trust that we remain useful and relevant and we appreciate the emails we receive from readers.

The lese majeste and computer crimes laws must be repealed.


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