Intolerance and monarchy

27 04 2021

Political intolerance is a virus that has infected much of Southeast Asia, rolling back the minimal democratic gains made in the late 20th century.

An Australian report shows how monarchies are being resurrected and revamped as symbols of and sites for political intolerance. Thailand’s lese majeste law is ridiculous enough, but in Malaysia there’s now competition for the most ludicrous use of the law that represses, silences and threatens.

The report is of Fahmi Reza who “unleashed his latest Spotify playlist at a party in Australia…”, to now find himself “arrested, thrown behind bars and facing a potential three-year prison sentence.”

Fahmi is a “well-known satirist [who] is being investigated under the country’s sedition law, as well as its communications and multimedia legislation, for allegedly insulting Malaysia’s Queen…”.

His playlist is centered on the words “jealous” and “jealousy” and is “a reference to the queen’s riposte on social media to speculation about members of the royal family and their staff having jumped the queue for COVID-19 vaccines.”

Like Thailand’s police, Malaysian cops claim Fahmi’s playlist “intentionally threatens public security.” Yes, really. It turns out that the “investigation” was “triggered by a complaint made by pro-establishment government MP…”.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch was clear: the “investigation” was “patently absurd,” showing that the “Malaysian government persecution of free expression is reaching all new lows.” He added:

The intolerance of PM Muhyiddin Yassin and his government is really off the charts, and this kind of violation of civil and political rights betrays an anti-democratic tendency that values power and control over respect for the people and democracy….

Thailand ranks far lower.


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