Somsak Jeamteerasakul

The internet/email lit up on the evening of 22 April 2011 with rumors that the prominent historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul (สมศักดิ๋ เจียมธีรสกุล) might be charged with lese majeste. Later, following the 22 May 2014 military coup, the military dictatorship filed lese majeste charges against him in July 2014.

Prachatai reported the earlier accusations, calling Somsak a “staunch critic of the monarchy…”. The Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha was said to be behind the charge.

Critics argued that this high-profile harassment would likely “backfire.” Vipar Daomanee, a fellow academic at Thammasat University, said: “Somsak has always been careful [in expressing himself] and the fact that the ruling class is using this law is short-sighted, blind and dictatorial.”

Perhaps thinking of then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s claims that academic criticism is not “out-of-bounds” when it comes to lese majeste, “Vipar … added that Somsak always cited detailed academic texts and facts whenever he criticized the law or the institution.” Clearly, those pushing the current [April 2011] round of lese majeste persecutions have thrown that idea out and are now setting their sights on any critics of the monarchy, trying to rub out all opposition.

Lese majeste academic David Streckfuss states:  “Striking against red-shirt leaders is one thing but striking against an academic is another…”, adding that “Somsak and his group’s approach to criticisms are ‘very measured’.”

An article in The Nation also claimed that Somsak has been subject to “threatening phone calls of late and some unknown motorcyclists also drove in front of his home to harass him.” Later reports were of intimidation and attacks, with unknown persons firing shots into his house.

Academics locally and internationally protested on Somsak’s behalf. Somsak’s own defense was critical and reasoned.

When he later appeared at Thammasat University, some 500 academics, diplomats, members of the foreign media, and social activists also turned up to support him and denounce the campaign against him, and General Prayuth Chan-ocha. At this point it was reported that the likely prosecutions related to two open letters he had written in response to Princess Chulabhorn’s very odd interviews with a television personality. PPT posted on the interviews (here, here and here) and on Somsak’s responses (here and here).

In February 2014, Khaosod reported that General Prayuth was at it again:

The Royal Thai Army is considering a legal action against a prominent historian for his remarks about the monarchy, according to an army spokesman.

The claim is that Somsak “gravely insulted the Royal Family in his Facebook posts.” Somsak seemed to think that the Army is simply dim, misunderstanding comments where “he has been simply parodying and criticising certain type of royalists.” And goodness knows, they deserve parodying. Somsak asks: “Can′t the Army Commander-in-Chief read Thai?”

The Army has “warned that any further action that ‘falsely’ insult the Royal Family or lessen the public′s faith in the democratic regime with the King as Head of State would be met with legal action from the army.” The Army also promises “unspecified ‘social measures’ to deter such inappropriate action.”

And as is now usual when political tensions are high, the Army launches a witch hunt, demanding that “every sector … keep careful watch, in order to prevent anyone from slandering or insulting our beloved monarchy…”.

Following the 22 May 2014 coup, led by General Prayuth, Somsak fled the country and eventually found exile in France. He continued to be attacked by Prayuth and is regularly accused of lese majeste. The lese majeste charges in Thailand came in July 2014.

In February 2015, the royalist Rector of Thammasat University, working for the military dctatorship, decided to fire Somsak, despite the fact that he had sent a letter of resignation to take effect from 30 December 2014. The Rector rejected the letter and sought to punish Somsak by sacking him, stripping him of pension and other benefits due to him after 20 years of service to the university. This is how the royaalist elite works with the military.

In late June 2015 it was reported that Somsak had gained political refugee status in France.

The military bosses and the state have not given up and continue to seek ways to charge Somsak with lese majeste.

In late February 2016, it was reported that police had reopened a criminal investigation into an interview broadcast nearly three years previously. The case stems from several complaints of royal defamation against Somsak for his interview that aired in March 2013  on Thai PBS.

ThaiPBS aired Tob Joad (The Answers) in a series that also featured Sulak Sivaraksa, Surakiart Sathirathai, and Pol Gen Wasit Dejkunchorn. The show hosted by Pinyo Trisuriyathamma.”

According to police, no action has ever been taken on these complaints. This proves that police can be sensible, but they came under great pressure from mad royalists in the junta and outside. In fact, the deputy chief of Royal Thai Police was appointed to oversee the case or cases.

Apparently the deputy chief has to view the show and decide whether it is considered illegal. If  he decides that the content constitutes lese majeste, then Somsak and other people involved in the program will be charged. This might include executives of Thai PBS.

In his interview Somsak suggested that the royals exceeded the limits imposed by the legal framework of the modern constitutional monarchy. He was absolutely correct. Here’s the show:

In a related set of events, in March 2016, Somsak’s dismissal from the recently royalized Thammasat University, this was challenged. While the most senior judge in the case considered the dismissal unlawful, the case was quickly postponed just when the reading of the decision was due. We imagine that this is yet another example of the politicization of the judiciary.

Media reports on Somsak’s case:

Khaosod, 7 March 2016: “Ruling in Somsak Jeam v. Thammasat Shelved Indefinitely

Khaosod, 1 March 2016: “Thammasat Dismissed Somsak Jeam Unfairly, Judge Agrees

Prachatai, 26 February 2016: “Exiled academic Somsak may face more lèse majesté charges

Khaosod, 26 February 2016: “Monarchy Critic Faces Charge for 2013 Interview

Prachatai, 27 June 2015: “France grants refugee status to Thai political exiles

Bangkok Post, 25 February 2015: “Prawit denies military had Somsak fired

Khaosod, 25 February 2015: “Thammasat University Expels Monarchy Critic Living in Exile”

Bangkok Post, 18 December 2014: “Govt pursues lese majeste suspects overseas

Khaosod, 16 December 2014: “Thai Junta Chairman Vows to Hunt Down Critics of Monarchy

Khaosod, 6 February 2014: “Army Threatens Lese Majeste Charge Against Historian

Prachatai, 16 November 2012: “Police decide to prosecute Thammasat lecturer for lèse majesté

Christian Science Monitor, 24 May 2011: “Academic freedom under fire in royalist Thailand

The Nation, 12 May 2011, “Lese majeste under increasing scrutiny”

Reuters, 11 May 2011: “Thai army files lese-majeste complaint against academic

Prachatai, 11 May 2011, “Somsak Gets Warm Support”

Prachatai, 11 May 2011,  “On the Lese Majeste Proceedings Against Somsak Jeamteerasakul”

University World News, 11 May 2011, “Thailand: Academic Charged in Watershed Political Case”

Bangkok Post, 25 April 2011: “Intellectuals join Somsak to defend stance”

The Nation, 24 April 2011: “Shock over lese-majeste charge against Thammasat historian”

Prachatai, 23 April 2011: “Academic threatened with lese majeste charges”

The New York Times, 12 May 2011, “In Thailand, Tensions rise over royal family role”

25 responses

10 05 2011
Open Letter for Intellectual Freedom | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] ago in support of intellectual freedom in Thailand and calling for an end to the threats against Somsak Jeamteerasakul. As PPT noted a few days ago, these threats have now become a formal summons. We reproduce the […]

2 06 2011
American arrested in Thailand for posting link on blog [UPDATED] | Asian Correspondent

[…] Additionally further discussion is made at the New Mandela website from Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a leading Thai academic himself recently charged with lese majeste.. […]

23 04 2012
16 11 2012
Somsak to be prosecuted! « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Somsak Jeamteerasakul […]

16 11 2012
Somsak to be prosecuted! « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] decided to prosecute a lese majeste charge against Thammasat University historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul. The complaint was made by the […]

1 12 2012
Lese majeste updates « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Somsak Jeamteerasakul […]

1 12 2012
Lese majeste updates « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] third story refers to well-known Thammasat historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul who is said to be “pessimistic” and “both surprised and appalled by the decision of police to […]

5 12 2012
Lese majeste not forgotten « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Somsak Jeamteerasakul […]

5 12 2012
Lese majeste not forgotten « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] Wattapongsirikul, Pattani man (all names are unknown), Pisek Sanittangkul, Pitsanu Promsorn, Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Somyos Pruksakasemsuk, Suporn Atthawong, Suraphot Thawisak, Thaksin Shinawatra, Thanapol […]

6 02 2014
Somsak faces another lese majeste threat | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Prominent Thammasat University historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul has faced several threats of lese majeste charges in the recent past. Some of his previous problems stemmed from Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s use of lese majeste to silence a dogged critic. […]

7 02 2014
Somsak faces another lese majeste threat | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] Prominent Thammasat University historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul has faced several threats of lese majeste charges in the recent past. Some of his previous problems stemmed from Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s use of lese majeste to silence a dogged critic. […]

5 07 2014
The lese majeste regime | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Update: The Bangkok Post also reports that the Foreign Ministry has also indicated the establishment of this lese majeste regime by revoking “the passports of lese majeste opponent Somsak Jeamteerasakul and hardline red-shirt leader Wutthipong “Ko Tee” Kochthammakhun.” Note that Somsak is not charged with lese majeste but that The Dictator has long been after him, hoping to pin a lese majeste charge on him. […]

5 07 2014
Updated: The lese majeste regime | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] Update: The Bangkok Post also reports that the Foreign Ministry has also indicated the establishment of this lese majeste regime by revoking “the passports of lese majeste opponent Somsak Jeamteerasakul and hardline red-shirt leader Wutthipong “Ko Tee” Kochthammakhun.” Note that Somsak is not charged with lese majeste but that The Dictator has long been after him, hoping to pin a lese majeste charge on him. […]

17 12 2014
Hunting and hating critics | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] has been a particular target for Prayuth. When he was Army chief, Prayuth was behind a lese majeste accusation against Somsak. Then, in February 2014, Khaosod reported that Prayuth was at it again: “The Royal Thai Army […]

17 12 2014
Hunting and hating critics | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] has been a particular target for Prayuth. When he was Army chief, Prayuth was behind a lese majeste accusation against Somsak. Then, in February 2014, Khaosod reported that Prayuth was at it again: “The Royal Thai Army is […]

29 05 2015
Army chief uses lese majeste against Thaksin | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Khaosod also points out that the Army is a “staunch ally of the monarchy” and that it “has previously filed several lese majeste charges against members of the public.” The report mentions its charges against Darunee Charnchoensilpakul in 2008. She remains in prison. Also mentioned are Army charges against exiled historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul. […]

29 05 2015
Updated: Army chief uses lese majeste against Thaksin | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] Khaosod also points out that the Army is a “staunch ally of the monarchy” and that it “has previously filed several lese majeste charges against members of the public.” The report mentions its charges against Darunee Charnchoensilpakul in 2008. She remains in prison. Also mentioned are Army charges against exiled historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul. […]

28 06 2015
A refuge from the feudal law | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Chuichai or Aum Neko, Jaran Ditapichai and Somsak Jeamteerasakul are each reported to have been granted this status since their arrival in France as political […]

28 06 2015
A refuge from the feudal law | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] Chuichai or Aum Neko, Jaran Ditapichai and Somsak Jeamteerasakul are each reported to have been granted this status since their arrival in France as political […]

21 10 2015
Lese majeste war declared | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] At the top of the “network” is former Thammasat University lecturer Somsak Jeamteerasakul, long targeted by The Dictator as an enemy. […]

21 10 2015
Lese majeste war declared | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] At the top of the “network” is former Thammasat University lecturer Somsak Jeamteerasakul, long targeted by The Dictator as an enemy. […]

26 02 2016
Somsak ++ lese majeste accusations | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] pursued by many royalists and most especially by The Dictator himself for lese majeste, and it is never clear to us if any of these accusations have stuck. In any case, after the junta grabbed power, Somsak read the very clear tea leaves and took off for […]

26 02 2016
Somsak ++ lese majeste accusations | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] pursued by many royalists and most especially by The Dictator himself for lese majeste, and it is never clear to us if any of these accusations have stuck. In any case, after the junta grabbed power, Somsak read the very clear tea leaves and took off for […]

7 03 2016
The judiciary and Somsak | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] will recall that late in February, the military dictatorship again moved against Somsak Jeamteerasakul, seeking to again investigate allegations of lese majeste. Somsak has been the subject of lese […]

7 03 2016
The judiciary and Somsak | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] will recall that late in February, the military dictatorship again moved against Somsak Jeamteerasakul, seeking to again investigate allegations of lese majeste. Somsak has been the subject of lese […]