Maintaining the fear

11 11 2015

Longtime Bangkok Post writer Sanitsuda Ekachai had an excellent op-ed on lese majeste deaths in military custody. She said, amongst much else, “Authorities can say whatever they want about the cause of Mor Yong’s death. But they cannot expect people to believe it.”

At the same time she noted the fear that pervades Thai society: “There is no need trying to get frank opinions from people face to face, however. No one speaks their minds with strangers anymore; it has become too dangerous.” She referred to “the climate of fear in our country.” She notes the “public distrust.” And she says that people are aware that the is a “danger” that chills.

She says that the military dictatorship claims to “want to protect the monarchy and punish those who abuse royal links.” Few believe this anymore.

She goes on to note strange happening with these particular deaths in custody of persons arrested in circumstances that are related entirely to events within palace circles. Mor Yong or Suriyan Sujaritpalawong “was cremated hurriedly without religious rites. The media was also barred from the cremation and taking photos.”

She asks “why do lese majeste suspects have to undergo the humiliating procedure of shaving their heads? Is this even legal?” Social media say it is a revived royal rite for the condemned. We wonder if Jirawong Wattanathewasilp, the last survivor of the three arrested in mid-October will appear for court on Thursday.

On the deaths she says: “According to the law, the death of a suspect while in custody requires both an autopsy and court investigation. The court has the jurisdiction to rule about the suspect’s cause of death — not corrections authorities or medical doctors. Why has this rule been ignored? And why the hasty cremations and press ban?”

Like others, Sanitsuda notices that these deaths in custody mean that “their testimonies are [were] crucial to the regime’s efforts to prevent further abuse of royal links” will no longer be heard. The unspoken accusation is that they have been both punished and silenced. Her view is that the “[a]uthorities are to blame if people think such fatal lapses were intentional.”

Sanitsuda concludes: “The regime should also realise the whole world is watching closely.”

They are watching a brutal regime that is intimidating an entire population in the name of protecting a monarchy that is implicated in the brutality.