Lese majeste and the need for secrecy

18 02 2014

PPT missed this story a couple of days ago regarding yet another, essentially unconstitutional, in-camera trial of another lese majeste case.

Prachatai reports that the South Bangkok Criminal Court has agreed to a “request from the Public Prosecutor to hold in camera the trial of a 65-year-old man charged with Article 112 or lèse majesté law for selling a banned book on the death of the King Rama VIII.”

On 11 February, the defendant U. (name withheld) who is a book seller operating from temporary stalls and at street markets, has been charged with selling a Thai translation of The Devil’s Discus by Rayne Kruger.That book was an account of several possible causes of the gunshot death of King Ananda Mahidol in 1946 and was published in English in 1964.The book was “banned under the now-abolished Printing Act.”

PPT has several posts on the book. One of our posts was of an earlier report of this case, including a name-redacted PDF of the prosecutions charge sheet that can be downloaded here (6 pages). The Thai-language version กงจักรปีศาจหลัง is scarce, but see commentary here. There’s also a long discussion at New Mandala from 2008. The Thai translation is reportedly by Chalit Chaisithiwet and was published in 1974.

The defendant was reportedly “arrested when selling books at a People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) gathering at Lumpini Park” on 2 May 2006.

The Public Prosecutor claims “there are six sections in the book which constitute lèse majesté. The six sections are the author’s presentation of “theories” about the cause of the king’s death which involve the current king.” While most informed observers now seem to assume that the then King was accidentally killed by the present king, Kruger “concluded that the former king was likely to have committed suicide because his relationship with a foreign woman was unacceptable.”

The courtroom door has a sign that says “Secret Trial. No Entry.” In the trial, Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office, Thongthong Chandrangsu again appeared as “an expert on monarchical ceremonies” and testified as a prosecution witness, something he has made a habit. It is reported that Thongthong admitted “he did not finish the book,” but he considered “the six selected sections which involve the current king, … to be lèse majesté.” Thongthong also revealed that:

although the book says the assumptions in the six sections are likely to be impossible and comes to a different conclusion, it does not disprove those assumptions involving the current king. Someone reading the book may possibly believe in one of the theories [involving the current king].

The defendant’s attorney rightly observed to the court that “to determine whether a book constitutes lèse majesté or not, one needs to read the whole book, not a selected part.” Of course, any reasonable person would agree, but here we are dealing with the irrationality of lese majeste where reasonableness is the first casualty of the politicized nonsense that is supposed to be a court proceeding.

The case continues on 25 March. Prachatai states that an “international human rights body submitted a letter to the court to observe the secret trial, but the court did not approve the request…”. It is far easier to hold a secret trial where the shenanigans of the court cannot be scrutinized.


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25 01 2015
Judiciaries against justice | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] In addition to being highly politicized and royalist and judiciary is prone to bribery and corruption, undue palace influence and operates on blatant double standards, including a bias for the rich. When it comes to lese majeste cases, the application of the “law” is inexplicable except by reference to the judiciary’s complete subservience to royalism. For example, despite the fact that Article 112 is specific on who is covered, judges have extended its application to long dead kings and have heard cases in secret. […]

25 01 2015
Judiciaries against justice | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] In addition to being highly politicized and royalist and judiciary is prone to bribery and corruption, undue palace influence and operates on blatant double standards, including a bias for the rich. When it comes to lese majeste cases, the application of the “law” is inexplicable except by reference to the judiciary’s complete subservience to royalism. For example, despite the fact that Article 112 is specific on who is covered, judges have extended its application to long dead kings and have heard cases in secret. […]