Further updated: Lese majeste war

30 12 2014

While PPT has been posting almost non-stop on lese majeste cases brought by the monarchist military dictatorship, several points come to mind as we ponder exactly why The Dictator and his band of royalist “brothers” – using the Prem Tinsulanonda view of the military – think that waging lese majeste war is not damaging that which they claim to be protecting.

December has seen dozens of lese majeste cases and accusations and exceeds anything PPT has seen since we began monitoring such cases in early 2009. Why now?

PPT has mentioned the necessity of preparing for succession. While the king is indeed still alive, his latest appearance suggests that he can’t be functioning as king as he is not remotely competent. Of course, if Thailand was a normal constitutional monarchy, a king with dementia probably wouldn’t matter at all; but Thailand isn’t normal in any shape or form. And, it is the king and his minions like Prem and the aged duffers of the Privy Council who should be blamed for creating a political system that hinges on the health of a very old man.

Another reason for using the lese majeste law is to shore up a political, economic and social order that the elite of rich royalists, stupendously wealthy Sino-Thai tycoons (including the king’s palace), and numerous hangers-on, like the military brass, think has been under threat. They blamed Thaksin Shinawatra for this threat. Of course, they are wrong, but perception counts in politics.

All this kind of makes sense, but why the sudden huge spike in the lese majeste war? We have mentioned succession house cleaning.

We think that there is something to all of these suggestions. However, a Khaosod story caught our attention and set us thinking some more.

It states that the military dictatorship has now “authorised” – read that as “ordered” – Thailand’s internet providers “to shut down any websites deemed critical of the monarchy ‘in 30 seconds’ without seeking approval from any authority.” This is quite a demand, technically and practically, but this military dictatorship seems set on crushing anything it considers anti-monarchy. The story cites an official:

Thakorn Tantasith, a member of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC), said today that all Internet Service Providers (ISP) based in the Kingdom have been instructed to monitor the websites under their watch and close down any sites that contain libelous remarks toward the monarchy….

“They can shut down any page with content that threatens the national security or violates Section 112 immediately. They don’t need to seek any approval from the NBTC or any agency,” Thakorn said, “If they have doubt about whether some websites are guilty of the crime, they can contact a five-person special working group of the NBTC.”

If the committee deem the website to be in violation of lese majeste laws, it will shut down the site in 30 seconds, Thakorn explained.

PPT believes this is in violation of the Computer Crimes Act, but laws do not bother a military dictatorship that illegally grabbed power. As the Bangkok Post points out, “[u]nder previous law and regulations, police had to ask a court for permission to block an internet site or a web page. It is not clear who or what agency has authorised the ad hoc, freelance censorship.”

Why now? Thakorn has a remarkable answer, saying that “the new measure is a response to the spike in lese majeste violations in the past several months.” He added: “We have to tighten the screw to prevent any further offences, or at least reduce them…”.

This is truly grotesque. The spike in lese majeste cases is a result of the military dictatorship declaring lese majeste war. It has actively sought out cases, some of which are trivial in all respects, others being political vendettas, and it has begun sifting through old cases to prosecute them more stringently. As Khaosod points out, “[a]lthough discussion and negative remarks about the monarchy have always been taboo in Thailand, the Thai junta has significantly stepped up enforcement of the draconian lese majeste law in recent months.”

The only new spike in cases that is not driven by this lese majeste warfare on the part of the junta may be the prince’s housecleaning. Is it the housecleaning for succession that has worried the military dictatorship? Are they seeing a response to Srirasmi’s ouster that worries them because they fear they can’t control social media when the prince takes the throne?

What was our new thought? In fact, we have said it previously, but not in recent months: we think the military dictatorship, encased in the cocoon of ultra-royalism, is demonstrating its weakness. With no ideology other than banal royalism, and with a monarchy in decline, the military has painted itself into a political corner. When the monarchy crumbles, so does the military. We can’t wait!

Update 1: A reader emailed us an made an excellent point. The reader observes that there’s “another angle to ‘why now’? The military wage war because that’s what they do. OK, in Thailand the only wage war against unarmed, innocent civilians but not only in Thailand. That’s been the trend…”. The reader adds:

It you’re going to have a permanent war against ‘anti-monarchists’ … you need an endless supply of anti-monarchists. Their tragic, absurd Inquisition provides the endless supply of  anti-monarchists … and enables their permanent war on anti-monarchists.

Update 2: Another reader pointed out an article by commentator and political exile Pavin Chachavalpongpun that looks at reasons for the lese majeste war and says pretty much the same as we do above, a couple of days earlier. He comments on: “Propping up a weakened monarchical institution and disguising the uncertainty of the royal succession is one rationale.” He adds: “Attempts to control society, conserve elitist privileges, prolong the military’s role in politics, obstruct democratization and cope with the technological revolution in cyberspace also play a significant role.” Further: “In many ways, these charges seem to confirm the existence of the so-called anti-monarchy movement in Thailand.” More: “They also justify the coup…”. And he makes the important point: “Application of the law highlights a sense of desperation — not authority — on the part of the Thai state.” The whole article is worth a read.


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15 01 2015
Letting the dogs out | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] majeste cases continue to pile up under the military dictatorship. At the end of 2014, PPT canvassed some reasons for the frantic use of lese majeste. At the time we wrote of the monarchist military dictatorship’s lese majeste […]

15 01 2015
Letting the dogs out | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] · Leave a comment Lese majeste cases continue to pile up under the military dictatorship. At the end of 2014, PPT canvassed some reasons for the frantic use of lese majeste. At the time we wrote of the monarchist military dictatorship’s lese majeste […]