Lese majeste as pedagogy

12 03 2015

One of the important reasons for the ready use of the grotesque lese majeste law is as a form of instruction. The pedagogy of lese majeste is simple: don’t mess with the royalist elite who believe that Thailand is their fiefdom.

There’s another lesson being taught, this time to the royal hangers-on: don’t mess with the crown prince who is soon to be king.

At Khaosod it is reported that the “parents of a former Thai princess have been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for insulting the monarchy.” In total, they got five years on the lese majeste charge, halved for the almost required guilty plea. That guilty plea was entered despite earlier claims to the media that they had not committed the alleged offense.

Apiruj and Wantanee Suwadee, the parents of  Srirasmi, the estranged third wife of Prince Vajiralongkorn, were accused only last month “of using their royal connections to have a woman in Ratchaburi province imprisoned for 18 months on a bogus fraud conviction.”

Maybe they did, as those close to the powerful and dangerous in Thailand can generally act with impunity. But that’s not the pedagogical point. The lesson is that anyone who falls out with the prince not only loses their impunity and ability to become wealthy through the royal connection, but risks destruction.

Even the newspaper notes that this conviction has been “unusually swift,” but then so have all the other cases associated with the prince’s housecleaning.

More remarkable was the fact that the judge noted that the “two defendants ‘voluntarily’ declined to be represented by a lawyer during the trial.” Obviously, the defendants realized that there was no point. Even if innocent, they were to be jailed. They probably also realized that defending the case would likely bring a longer sentence and even further pressure on their family and their daughter who seems to be in virtual house arrest.

Khaosod states:

Apiruj and Wantanee are the latest members of former Princess Srirasmi’s family to be convicted of lese majeste this year. In one of the biggest scandals to rock the palace in recent years, Srirasmi resigned from the Royal Family in December 2014 after her brother, sister, and uncle were arrested on charges of lese majeste and running a massive crime ring.

Srirasmi’s uncle, former police commander Pongpat Chayapan, and sister, Sudathip Muangnuan, were found guilty of lese majeste on 30 January and 2 February, respectively.

The lessons are clear.


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