Sulak Sivaraksa

Sulak Sivaraksa is a self-professed royalist who has faced at least five lese majeste charges. He is a leading academic and long-time conservative critic of the lese majeste law.

He was first arrested in 1984 in Bangkok and charged with insulting the king; the case was later withdrawn following an international campaign. In a second case, in 1991 he was again charged after giving a speech at Chulalongkorn University where he attacked military rule. Sulak fought the case until he won, in 1995. A third set of allegations were made against Sulak in 2006.

Sulak’s fourth lese majeste case saw him taken from his Bangkok home late one night in November 2008 and driven 450 km to a police station in the northeast province of Khon Kaen. There, he was questioned on accusations of insulting the monarchy in a university lecture he gave in December 2007.

On the 2008 charge, Sulak claims that on 26 March 2009 he had “petitioned the permanent secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office for justice and urged the authorities to drop his charge, saying a Cabinet minister had told him the premier was aware of his case and would have his case dropped by Songkran Day, April 13.” That didn’t happen. Sulak claimed that his case going forward and the expiration of his bail on 4 May was a part of a plot by the police against the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva. Sulak has “denied the charge and insisted that he was a true royalist who believed in the need to honestly offer critical views and dissent so the monarchy could review itself from time to time.” This has been Sulak’s long-standing defense against the various lese majeste he has faced over the past three decades.

Sulak has sometimes taken a partisan approach to the law, claiming that the law should be used against those who do not have the interests of the monarchy at heart.  PPT believes that all uses of lese majeste are necessarily political and should be rejected and the law abolished. We deplore all applications of the law.

We understand that this 2009 case has been quietly dropped. Sulak has been reported as saying that this was because of the king’s personal intervention. Others state that it was a government committee that dropped the case. As PPT understands it, dropping the case doesn’t mean it can’t be reactivated at a later date.

A fifth case two retired royalist generals filed a lese majeste complaint against Sulak for a speech he made about King Naresuan, a historical figure considered important for the royalist mythology about Thailand. On 16 October 2014, Lt Gen Padung Niwatwan and Lt Gen Pittaya Vimalin filed the complaint at Chanasongkram Police Station accusing Sulak of “defaming” the former king during a public speech on “Thai History: the Construction and Deconstruction” on 5 October at Thammasat University, Bangkok. It is reported that in the speech, Sulak claimed the legend of an elephant battle between Naresuan and a Burmese king was constructed and he criticized the king of some 400 years ago for being cruel.

It might be considered that “defaming” a figure from ancient history, for who there is only  scant reliable historical information, might be a nonsense. It might be considered that the historical records that do exist tend to support Sulak’s interpretation. However, this may not amount to anything before the madness of the royalist courts in Thailand. “Insulting” dead kings has led to jail for a defendant who made mention of the reign of King Mongkut involving people in slavery, a clear historical and undisputed fact, but implying that there was no freedom in that period. This was deemed an insult.

In relation to this case, on 24 December 2014, police isued this statement: “… Sulak Sivaraksa has referred to Somdej Phra Naresuen the Great and Somdej Phra Chomklao Chaoyookhua (Rama IV) in a way that insults, defames, or threatens His Majesty the King…”.

PPT isn’t sure if the police are confused about present and past, but the tenses are surely wrong. The statement coincided with police calling in historian Pipat Krachaechan, of Thammasat University, to testify on the charge filed against Sulak. This case continued into 2017.

This case remained dormant until 5 October 2017. Then, the now 84 year-old Sulak was told by police that he must report to them, to be taken to a military court to meet with prosecutors preparing a case against him for allegedly criticizing the ancient King Naresuan.

Sulak commented: “If the country was normal and there existed rule of law in this country, then there won’t be problems. The lese majeste law protects the current monarch and if someone is charged for criticizing a king who reigned 500 years ago, then something is not normal…”.

On 9 October 2017, police escorted Sulak to the Bangkok military court where he was officially charged.

In early July 2015, it was reported that Sulak could face a sixth lese majeste charge for comments made in a panel discussion on the anniversary of the end of absolute monarchy. The discussion was organized by Rangsit University’s Faculty of Economics and the Heroes of Democracy Foundation. Police were reported to be investigating. We have no further information on this case.

In March 2017, it was reported that Sulak was a part of another sixth or seventh case.

The report stated that in 2016, Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, Deputy Police Chief, stated that nine people, including Sulak, and two corporations were accused of lese majeste for their involvement in a talk show aired in March 2013 called Tob Jod (The Answers) on Thai PBS.

Those accused seem to be Sulak, Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Surakiart Sathirathai, a former Deputy Prime Minister, Pol Gen Vasit Dejkunchorn, a confidante of the late king and show host by Pinyo Trisuriyathamma. In total, it is reported that nine stand accused.

On 7 December 2017, Sulak appeared before a military court, only to have his case deferred as the court accepted Sulak’s request for more information from experts and historians and a new hearing will be held on 17 January 2018.

Media commentary on Sulak’s cases:

Bangkom Post, 7 December 2017: “Court postpones decision on Sulak’s lese majeste charges

Bangkok Post, 14 November 2017: “Time to drop Sulak charges

The Nation, 11 October 2017: “Separating history from national myth

The Times, 10 October 2017: “Pensioner Sulak Sivaraksa, 85, faces jail for doubting Thai history

Bangkok Post, 9 October 2017: “Sulak faces prison for doubting King Naresuan story

Khaosod, 6 October 2017: “112 Case Moves Forward Against Historian For Doubting 16th Century ‘Elephant Duel’

Prachatai, 2 March 2017: “Renowned royalist accused of lèse majesté postpones hearing accusation

The Nation, 3 July 2015: “Sulak issues warning

Khaosod, 24 December 2014: “Historian Summoned Over ‘Elephant Battle’ Lese Majeste Charge

Bangkok Post, 19 October 2014: “Lese majeste claims over Naresuan elephant duel

Khaosod, 17 October 2014: “Lese Majeste Filed Against Historian For Questioning Ancient ‘Elephant Battle‘”

Prachatai, 17 October 2014: “Renowned royalist Sulak sued for lèse majesté for defaming ancient king

Thailand Mirror, 6 July 2011: “Don’t cry for me Thailand: Pravit Rojanaphruk”

Prachatai, 19 May 2009: “Sulak Sivaraksa reports to court on lèse majesté charge, blames Thaksin”; ภาษาไทย ดู ประชาไท, “ส.ศิวรักษ์รายงานตัวต่อศาลคดีหมิ่นสถาบัน อ้างทักษิณแกล้งผม”

The Nation, 3 May 2009: “Sulak could find himself behind bars”

The Earth Times, 11 February 2009: “Social critic urges Thai premier to act on lese majeste”.

Bangkok Post, 12 November 2008, “Institution of Monarchy and Lese Majeste”

Bangkok Post, 8 November 2008, “Politics behind Sulak’s arrest, says lawyer”

BBC News, 7 November 2008, “Thai arrest over ‘royal insult'”

Asia Times Online, 20 May 2006: “Lese majeste laws on trial in Thailand”

27 responses

11 02 2009
New: Sulak calls for law changes « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Sulak calls for law changes Jump to Comments Sulak Sivaraksa is facing investigation on a lèse majesté charge that could be lodged for prosecution within […]

21 02 2009
Updated: Defending lèse majesté « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] notes that Somchai has defended Sulak Sivaraksa on his  lèse majesté charges, but we wonder about this quotation, human rights and the political […]

7 04 2009
Lese majeste prosecutions hurt monarchy-New Mandala « FACT - Freedom Against Censorship Thailand

[…] circumstances are different to those experienced by a Jakrapob Penkair, a Sondhi Limthongkul or a Sulak Sivaraksa, who have all also been recently accused of this most opaque of crimes.  These men, and others […]

3 05 2009
New: Sulak’s lèse majesté case updated « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Sulak’s lèse majesté case updated As PPT has reported on its Pending Cases page, Sulak Sivaraksa was charged with lèse majesté back in November 2008 for comments he made in lecture at Khon Kaen […]

20 05 2009
New: Sulak reports to court « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Please also see PPT’s background on Sulak’s case here. […]

20 05 2009
New: Sulak reports to court « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Please also see PPT’s background on Sulak’s case here. […]

15 06 2009
New: Sulak, National Human Rights Commission and the king « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Secretary to examine complaints against nominated Human Rights Commissioner”) reports that Sulak Sivaraksa has raised the important issue of the suitability of a nominated member of the […]

17 11 2009
New: Sulak on the monarchy and lese majeste « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] and lese majeste Bangkok Pundit has a post well worth reading on an interview in Thai Post by Sulak Sivaraksa, a self-proclaimed monarchist charged with lese majeste. PPT won’t detail the interview […]

11 05 2010
What we want you to believe « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] the book A coup for the Rich and found that he was charged with lese majeste. Many would consider Sulak Sivaraksa an academic and intellectual commentator and he has been charged several times. Thanapol Eawsakul […]

2 03 2011
BBC on red shirts, lese majeste and media | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] is interviewed and sounds like he works for something other than The Nation…. The comments of Sulak Sivaraksa are characteristically challenging on race, ethnicity and the monarchy. The discussion on community […]

8 10 2011
On Sulak | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] to be advocates for “democracy (without even understanding how it works) like “social critic” Sulak Sivaraksa, who has to continually try and drag Thaksin Shinawatra back into the limelight. His recent […]

23 04 2012
17 06 2012
17 06 2012
Monarchists and royalists on lese majeste « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] problematic were from the outspoken Sulak. While he has been on the receiving end of lese majeste charges in the past, this doesn’t mean that everything he says on the topic makes […]

23 02 2013
23 02 2013
Sulak at Akechai’s lese majeste trial «Political Prisoners of Thailand Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] former and multiple victim of the use of the lese majeste law, Sulak Sivaraksa appeared for the defense in the case against Akechai Hongkangwarn (เอกชัย […]

22 02 2014
Sulak on the monarchy and Thai politics | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] seldom agrees with conservative social critic Sulak Sivaraksa‘s iconoclastic perspectives on politics. However, his comments on the monarchy are usually […]

22 02 2014
Sulak on the monarchy and Thai politics | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] seldom agrees with conservative social critic Sulak Sivaraksa‘s iconoclastic perspectives on politics. However, his comments on the monarchy are usually worth […]

26 12 2014
Of fools and other officials II | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] been filed against a panelist [Sulak Sivaraksa] who spoke at his forum on 5 October 2014.” Sulak is accused of defaming a monarch who has been dead for about 400 years and another who has been dead for almost 150 […]

26 12 2014
Of fools and other officials II | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] has been filed against a panelist [Sulak Sivaraksa] who spoke at his forum on 5 October 2014.” Sulak is accused of defaming a monarch who has been dead for about 400 years and another who has been dead for almost 150 […]

24 08 2015
Sulak’s latest lese majeste case and its investigation | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] against the well-known conservative social critic Sulak Sivaraksa. We listed this as being perhaps the sixth lese majeste case brought against him. for comments at a seminar commemorating the anniversary of the overthrow of the absolute monarchy […]

24 08 2015
Sulak’s latest lese majeste case and its investigation | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] against the well-known conservative social critic Sulak Sivaraksa. We listed this as being perhaps the sixth lese majeste case brought against him. for comments at a seminar commemorating the anniversary of the overthrow of the absolute monarchy […]

3 03 2017
Sulak’s lese majeste case | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] He was first arrested in 1984 in Bangkok and charged with insulting the king. His second case, in 1991 he was again charged after giving a speech at Chulalongkorn University. A third set of allegations were made against Sulak in 2006. Sulak’s fourth lese majeste case saw him taken from his Bangkok home late one night in November 2008 and driven 450 km to a police station in the northeast province of Khon Kaen. The outcome of these cases can be seen at our page on Sulak. […]

3 03 2017
Sulak’s lese majeste case | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] He was first arrested in 1984 in Bangkok and charged with insulting the king. His second case, in 1991 he was again charged after giving a speech at Chulalongkorn University. A third set of allegations were made against Sulak in 2006. Sulak’s fourth lese majeste case saw him taken from his Bangkok home late one night in November 2008 and driven 450 km to a police station in the northeast province of Khon Kaen. The outcome of these cases can be seen at our page on Sulak. […]

6 10 2017
Lese majeste vs. historical debate | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] page on the various  lese majeste cases brought against conservative social critic Sulak Sivaraksa is rather long. Unfortunately, we will be adding to […]

6 10 2017
Lese majeste vs. historical debate | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] page on the various  lese majeste cases brought against conservative social critic Sulak Sivaraksa is rather long. Unfortunately, we will be adding to […]

13 10 2017
Sulak Sivaraksa oder was hat es zu bedeuten, wenn ein Monarchist der Majestätsbeleidigung angeklagt wird? – Passau Watching Thailand

[…] Sulak Sivaraksa ist einer der bekanntesten kritischen Intellektuellen Thailands. Im Unterschied zu z.B. Kukrit Pramoj, einem anderen hoch gelobten Intellektuellen Thailands, hat er weder eine aristokratische Abstammung, noch je ein politisches Amt übernommen. Sulak arbeitete vor allem mit Mönchen, NGO, Bauern usw. Schon ein kurzer Blick in seine Untersuchungen der Kultur und Politik in Thailand zeigt, dass Sulak ein überzeugter Fundamental-Monarchist ist. Als Buddhist verbindet er die Bedeutung der Monarchie mit dem Buddhismus, d.h. der Monarch ist gleichzeitig Beschützer des Buddhismus und richtet sein Leben nach den Grundsätzen der gerechten Herrschaft aus. Daraus ergibt sich natürlich ein moralischer Anspruch an die Monarchie. Vielleicht ist genau dieser Anspruch ein Grund dafür, dass ihm 1984, 1991 und 2009 Majestätsbeleidigung vorgeworfen wurde. […]