Lese majeste and foreign policy

20 01 2015

Military dictators are generally not the brightest bulbs in the box. This is as true of Thailand as elsewhere. Its military leaders are groping about on policies when only a few items turn on their lights. Unfortunately, these are all ideological nonsense that includes crude ultra-nationalism driven by lese majeste and reactionary repression against all who are seen as anti-coup and anti-military. Both are met with blunt and usually ill-considered responses.

When foreign policy is in the hands of military men, they tend to be pretty hopeless and seldom have any of the diplomat’s skills. When lese majeste and diplomacy meet the mind of a dull military man, there’s not much opportunity for careful consideration.

As we have posted previously, angry royalists and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, directed to action by The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, have been in a frenzy over the UNHCR’s efforts to have the New Zealand government grant political asylum to Ekaphop Luera. Ekaphop has been charged under Thailand’s draconian lese majeste laws that have been ferociously implemented by the royalist military regime. New Zealand responses to lese majeste madness have been careful and considered.

According to a report at Khaosod, Prayuth has actually says something that makes a little bit of sense. Don’t turn off at this faint praise for The Dictator, however.

Prayuth must be feeling the domestic royalist heat for he told reporters that he can’t do much more: “They claim it’s an assistance based on humanitarian aspect, so what can I do?” He makes sense when he explains to the looney royalists attacking the UNHCR and withdrawing donations was a mistake, mixing up lese majeste and the agency’s international work.

He is back in the mode of pleasing domestic royalists when he claims to have “sent a letter of protest to the United Nations’ refugee agency for reportedly helping a lese majeste suspect flee Thailand.” Prayuth added that “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent letters of protest” to some “7-8 countries” that the regime thinks are”harboring Thai lese majeste suspects.” Prayuth reveals that “none of those foreign governments have responded to the letters.”

His comment that follows is also not completely bonkers: “They haven’t given us any answer, so we can’t do anything about it…”. Where he does show his lack of knowledge and narrow military perspective is when he states that Thailand can’t do anything “because we are not strong enough to fight the entire world…. We should wait until we are the superpower first before we think of doing anything like that.”

That’s a reasonable statement. But it is in the context of Thailand’s ridiculous and feudal lese majeste laws that criminalize free speech and thought and which makes criminal rather normal political speech. It is also in the context of the most outrageous use of the law since it came into existence more than a century ago. Prayuth has responsibility for that.

 


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