Updated: Bookseller escapes lese majeste

20 04 2014

As Khaosod has noted, the number of lese majeste accusations has suddenly spiked. Such spikes are usually a reliable measures of fascist and royalist efforts to control politics and increased political agitation.

In all of the madness associated with these allegations and charges, by crazed monarchists and even one by some unthinking red shirts, Prachatai reports one small piece of good news: “The Criminal Court on Thursday acquitted a 65-year-old vendor of a charge of lèse majesté. He had been arrested for selling the banned book The Devil’s Discus at yellow shirt rallies in 2006.”

The account of the secret trial is perhaps the most bizarre that PPT has seen to date, although we can only rely on short reports.Devils Discus

It took eight years to get a result, which we believe is potentially unconstitutional under Section 40 (3), which we list below.

But it apparently got stranger, for when Khun U (whose name has been withheld) was finally acquitted, it seems that the court decided to put the book on trial rather than the poor bookseller.  The bookseller was acquitted “because the prosecutors failed to prove that the defendant had the knowledge that the book had lèse majesté content.”

The Court “ruled that the book had content defaming the King, and the writer, Rayne Kruger, intended to insult the King,” which is not true at all, but then Kruger has been dead since 2003.

Prachatai’s account of events is revealing:

The book, written by English-South African author Rayne Kruger and published in 1964, was declared illegal by the Thai authorities in 2006. It was translated into Thai by Chalit Chaisithiwet and a Thai version was published in 1974. According to Wikipedia, as soon as the book was published, it was banned in Thailand and Kruger was also banned from further entry to Thailand.

According to the accusation, 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 former King’s death which involve the current King. The author concluded that the former King was likely to have committed suicide because his relationship with a foreign woman was unacceptable.

The police arrested him and confiscated a copy of the book and also a copy of the Same Sky journal, the “Monarchy and Thai society” issue of Oct-Dec 2005 (the Coca Cola issue). The two works were banned under the now-abolished Printing Act. The Public Prosecutor, however, only pressed charges for selling ‘The Devil’s Discus’.

The judge said that even though the book concluded that King Rama VIII committed suicide and did not involve the current King, the younger brother of King Rama VIII, it still unnecessarily mentioned King Bhumibol, which may cause misunderstanding among readers. Therefore, the writer had the intention to defame the King and the book was deemed lèse majesté, the judge concluded.

Lese majeste judges are now literary critics as well as censors and mad monarchists.

All of the prosecution witnesses stated that they “only read the six excerpts of the book selected by the police, and had never read the whole book,” and yet could still determine that the book constituted lese majeste. Defense witness, Sulak Sivaraksa, who had read the book, “both in the original English version and the Thai translation, said that when reading in its entirety, it did not necessarily lead the reader to have a defamatory attitude toward the current [k]ing.”

In other words, this trial was really of The Devil’s Discus rather than the bookseller.

According to the report, one of the defendant’s lawyers, said: “the ruling created a new standard in Article 112 cases. The ruling means that a single line in a book can alone determine that the whole book constitutes lèse majesté without consideration of the writer’s intention from reading the whole book.

Clearly, any “discussion of King Ananda’s death might land a person in jail for lèse majesté.”

On the constitutionality of a secret trial, the constitution states:

Section 40. A person shall have the rights in judicial process as follows:

… (2) fundamental rights in judicial process composing of, at least, right to public trial; right to be informed of and to examine into facts and related documents adequately; right to present facts, defences and evidences in the case; right to object the partial judges; right to be considered by the full bench of judges; and right to be informed of justifications given in the judgement or order;

(3) right to correct, prompt and fair trial;…

Clearly, Section 40 (2) has been breached. Lese majeste is a law in Thailand that is above the constitution and allows judges to, in fact, breach the law, something they have done several times in cases involving, for example, Darunee Charnchoensilpakul and Somyos Prueksakasemsuk.

Update: A reader asks an intriguing question: did the bookseller get off because he was a vendor at a yellow shirt rally? What would have happened if he had been selling the book at a red shirt rally?

 


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21 04 2014
Lese majeste fascism | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] began a post on a bizarre lese majeste trial yesterday with mention of a Khaosod story. A reader rightly points out that one aspect of the Khaosod story is not correct. This is the […]

21 04 2014
Lese majeste fascism | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] began a post on a bizarre lese majeste trial yesterday with mention of a Khaosod story. A reader rightly points out that one aspect of the Khaosod story is not correct. This is the […]