Not standing

16 09 2020

Thisrupt has a commentary on the recent furore over not standing in cinemas for the royal anthem, with royalists upset.

As PPT hasn’t been to a cinema for a while, we were a little surprised to learn that “[t]here’s an on-going trend of movie-goers not standing for the royal anthem.” It adds:

Perhaps a few people choose to remain seated. Maybe half the theater. Many movie-goers can tell, these days, it’s common for people to stay seated.

The commentary then gets a little befuddled, stating:

During the reign of King Rama 9, it was unimaginable. Back then, some might stood up sincerely from their heart. Some might have done it out of the social convention. Some might have done it for fear of chastisement. But in general, everyone stood up.

This is wrong and also falls into a trap seen even among some anti-monarchy critics that views the dead king with a kind of longing that obscures to many facts.

It might be true that it was the military dictator Gen Sarit Thanarat who introduced the practice as he sought to gain legitimacy for himself and the monarchy. However, PPT recalls a time in the early 1970s, when many cinema patrons would flee the theater when the credits came on at the end of the film as the anthem was played at the end of the screening.

We can’t recall when this changed to the anthem at the beginning of screenings, but the idea was to force “respect.” But that didn’t work either. There were many who chose seats at the back of the cinema so that they could remain seated. Others waited in the foyer and came into the theater after the anthem finished.

Even at concerts in the mid-2000s, it was not unusual to attend a concert and see the hall empty. It would immediately fill after the anthem.

And, we should not forget the case of political activist Chotisak Onsoong, who with a friend, were accused by police in April 2008 of insulting the monarchy for refusing to stand during the royal anthem and who was forced into exile for some years before the case was dropped.

The Thisrupt story does observe that: “These days, not only are people not standing up, some even post about it on Facebook.” A recent altercation over not standing saw one Facebook post get “over 52,000 shares and over 19,000 comments.”

Preparing for (more) repression

15 06 2020

Increased repression is in the works.

One indication is that police “have summonsed at least three people to answer charges of violating the Emergency Decree in connection with a recent gathering to demand a probe into the [enforced] disappearance in Cambodia of pro-democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit.” (One of those to be charged is Chotisak Onsoong.)

Keeping the emergency decree in place is a part of the ongoing repression.

Another indication is that the Bangkok Post reports the “Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) will carry out a major drill next month aimed at testing its new internal security plan…”. ISOC’s targets are always opponents of the regime and the monarchy.

Prawit and Prayuth

A third indication has to do with the military bosses in the regime strengthening its control over its Palang Pracharath Party by having Gen Prawit Wongsuwan run the show. With Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda, the trio that planned the 2014 military coup are ensuring that parliament and oppositions are kept quiescent.


As a Bangkok Post report states: “Once firmly in control of the party, his role will further strengthen the positions of Gen Prawit himself, Prime Minister Prayut … and Interior Minister Anupong…”. The move also strengthens the military itself.

While the trio already have control, they and the Army brass are worried about rising discontent, some of it targeting the absent king. And, they plan to stay around for years to come, controlling the country.

Lines are being drawn II

17 02 2018

Khaosod reports that the military junta is going after pro-democracy activists, targeting both veterans and others who are virtually unknown.

The junta wants 43 people “prosecuted for attending a recent rally demanding elections be held this year.”

It is worth noting that it is reported that it is the junta itself that has picked out those to be charged. Among them are:

Activist Piyarat Chongthep, leftist Chotisak Onsoong, former lese majeste convict Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul, 2010 crackdown justice advocate Pansak Srithep, student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, civil rights lawyer [and father of Pai] Wiboon Boonpattararaksa and academic Anusorn Unno and 36 others were named in complaints Thursday. They are accused of violating the junta’s ban on protests.

Daranee denies being part of the protest.

Most of the rest charged have “no obvious history of activism.”

As far as we can tell, the junta has now brought charges against almost 90 pro-election activists in the past week or so. All face at least a year in jail if convicted and some face up to seven years.

Not standing for the royal anthem

31 07 2012

The following release is from the Asian Human Rights Commission. It has useful information on the case against Chotisak Onsoong and his friend, who have been harassed for several years and were forced into exile.

The only issue PPT questions is the title given to the story by the AHRC. According to a report in The Nation,

Visit added that prosecutors agreed with Pathumwan police chief’s suggestion that the charges should be dropped. He said Chotisak’s misconduct was not a criminal offence but a violation of a law dating back to 1942, in which a Thai citizen refusing to stand while the royal anthem is being played may face up to a month in prison or a fine of up to Bt1,000. This offence has a one-year statutory limitation, and since this offence was not cited in the complaint, the case has already expired.

The AHRC release is as follows:



July 30, 2012

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission

THAILAND: Judiciary affirms that not standing is no crime

The Asian Human Rights Commission is pleased to learn that the criminal charges brought against Chotisak Onsoong and his friend for allegedly defaming the monarchy have been dropped by the prosecutor. The charges stemmed from the couple’s decision not to stand during the royal anthem and video montage lauding the life of the king played prior to the screening of a movie in a central Bangkok theatre on the evening of 20 September 2007. When they did not stand up, Navamintr Witthayakul, a man standing in front of them, turned around and yelled at them. When they did not comply, an argument ensued and Navamintr physically assaulted Chotisak. Later that evening, Navamintr filed a complaint against Chotisak and his friend of violating section 112 of the Criminal Code, which mandates that, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” Simultaneously, Chotisak filed a complaint against Navamintr for physical assault. While the prosecutor dropped the assault charges against Navamintr in September 2008, it took four-and-a-half years, until April 2012, for the charges against Chotisak and his friend also to be dropped.

In a letter dated 11 April 2012 and available (in Thai) on the Prachatai website ( Visit Sukyukol, Special Prosecutor for Southern Bangkok 4 explains that the charges were dropped because there was insufficient evidence to send the case to court. Visit notes that on 20 September 2007, at approximately 7:45pm, while the royal anthem and video montage were played prior to the beginning of a film at the Central World cinema, Chotisak and his friend (name withheld) remained seated while all other moviegoers in the theater “stood up to pay respect”. This caused another moviegoer, Nawamintr Witthayakul, to turn around and say, in English, “Stand up.” According to Visit, Chotisak turned around and said, “Why do I have to stand up? There is no law mandating it.” This comment led to disagreement about the two, and caused Navamintr to file a complaint with the police alleging that Chotisak and his friend had violated section 112.

Despite establishing this series of events, Visit in his order to close the prosecution commented that their words and actions did not have the characteristic of insulting or causing shame, loss, or humiliation to the king. Further, he noted that there was no clear evidence suggesting that Chotisak and his friend intended to defame the king. Finally, Visit also noted the argument that took place between Navamintr and Chotisak following the playing of the royal anthem and video montage was “conduct that was inappropriate and was not part of the social norms that citizens should follow”.

Although the AHRC finds Visit’s assessment of the “inappropriate” nature of the argument between Navamintr and Chotisak intriguing, it welcomes Visit’s measured and clear accounting of why the charges against Chotisak and his friend have been dismissed. His is a clear statement that section 112 cannot be applied to any and all speech or actions that question the relationship between the monarchy and the people, the monarchy and democracy, or the monarchy and human rights. Discussions about these topics–or at the very least, the legality of them–are urgently necessary if there is to be the possibility of the rule of law and the consolidation of human rights in Thailand.

Despite the outcome of this case, the AHRC would like to express concern about the slow pace at which the prosecutor’s inquiries proceeded. Chotisak and his friend waited over four years for this outcome: the complaint against them was filed in September 2007, and police lodged charges in April 2008, with the case file going to the prosecutor that October. Since then until April 2012, the two accused have daily lived in fear that they would have to face charges in court at any time. By contrast, the prosecutor decided to drop the charges of physical assault brought against Navamintr for his assault of Chotisak in September 2008.

The Asian Legal Resource Centre, sister organization of the AHRC, in a recent statement to the UN Human Rights Council concerning the May 2012 death in custody of Amphon Tangnoppakul (ALRC-CWS-20-09-2012), who had been convicted of alleged violations of section 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act, noted that long delays have become the norm in lese-majesty cases in Thailand. The ALRC noted that under article 9(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a state party, “Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release.” What the case of Chotisak Onsoong and friend indicates is that delays may occur in the period of inquiry into a police case that even if the accused is not being held in detention may cause him or her considerable hardship and grief. Such delays function as a de facto form of punishment, constricting the lives and rights of those facing possible prosecution and contributing to insecurity and uncertainty.

In the years since the 19 September 2006 coup, the number of complaints filed under section112 has increased exponentially. While it is a matter of concern that the government of Thailand has not released statistics on the number of such cases and circumstances of the accused, evidence available to the Asian Human Rights Commission indicates that many of these complaints do become fully realized criminal prosecutions. Yet far from protecting the individuals and institutions that they claim to protect, these laws have in the hands of over-zealous citizens and state officials become nothing other than tools for the violation of fundamental rights. That Chotisak Onsoong and his friend spent years waiting to find out if their decision not to stand up before a movie screen would earn them a prison sentence of up to 15 years is an indication of the gravity of the social and political crisis caused by the expansion of the use of this law. Therefore, the AHRC would like to take this opportunity to urge the judiciary and relevant government agencies in Thailand to follow the clear decision of the prosecutor in this case and stop the abuse of section 112 of the Criminal Code and related provisions, particularly the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. The AHRC also reiterates its call to revoke both section 112 and the Computer Crimes Act, to halt all current prosecutions under these laws, and release all those currently imprisoned under them.

Lese majeste case dropped

22 07 2012

PPT should have posted earlier on this case for it is a piece of good news on lese majeste. Prachatai reports that the “public prosecutor has decided to drop a lèse majesté case against Chotisak Onsoong and his friend who did not stand up for the royal anthem in a Bangkok cinema in 2007.”

The pair had fled Thailand more than year ago when it appeared that the case was to go ahead. Now, the prosecutor believes that the pair’s actions “did not constitute insults or defamation.’ The prosecutor added that he felt

the behaviour of the accused was improper and should not be copied by others, their actions cannot be pinpointed as having the intention to insult the King, and there is insufficient evidence to justify their prosecution….

There are further details in the Prachatai story.

Fallout from Chulabhorn’s “Woody” interview

7 04 2011

We have had two posts at PPT that have commented briefly on the interview between Princess Chulabhorn and Bangkok personality Woody Milintachinda (see here, here and here).

In recent blogs and stories we note some buzz around particular aspects of the interview. At New Mandala, Guest Contributor Skye Phu-ngarm has a post entitled “A Thai response to Princess Chulabhorn’s interview.” Ignoring the allusion to “Thai-style” anything, it does present a sympathetic position on royalty. This comment deserves attention:

Woody was then brought to tears upon the Princess’s recall of the King’s declining health condition as a result of the Bangkok riots last year.   His displayed emotion only reiterated the common appreciation of the Thai public for the monarch.

PPT disagrees that there is anything like a “common appreciation” on this point. The continued repetition of statements like this amount to royalist propaganda. We certainly agree with the point that follows:

As a Thai citizen living in Thailand, I beg to differ with the Princess about the inadequacy of royal publicity.  What she should regularly be reminded is the very fact that Thai people, especially the young, have a mind of their own.  While the bombardment of  royal publicity has been successful in maintaining the royal strength, it could eventually prove futile if this institution is unwilling to strive to stay relevant within modern Thai society.

Bangkok Post photo

Skye tells readers that the next installment of this interview will have Chulabhorn telling viewers about the king’s health.  Skye adds: “Having been hospitalized in Siriraj Hospital since September 2009, the 84-year-old King’s health has become the center of national attention.” And of the rumor mill. Why is he still there? Fear? Ill-health? Declining capacity? People will speculate until the end.

But back to the first paragraph cited above. Prachatai highlights this point, drawing on the Manager, where politics is clearly on display. Remember this is meant to be a constitutional monarchy above politics. Hence, no royal should make public political comments:

She is asked about the playing of the royal anthem in movie theaters, which is a political issue because it has resulted in lese majeste allegations. Chulabhorn thinks there needs to be more! She wants increased attention to her dad’s “good works.” She adds: “However little it is, I’m proud that 20-year-old youngsters come to know what HM has done. This is not to promote myself as a royal. But I want HM to receive the justice he deserves, and also HM the Queen. They’ve worked so hard.”

Note the use of the term “justice.” There is no justice for critics of the monarchy, however.

She goes even further on the idea of more recognition of the monarchy: “Indeed, I’d like to ask for something, but haven’t dared to. I’d like to ask for 10 minutes of TV time after the news each day, to show short films about the royal duties to show what HM the King and the Queen have been doing. Please pity them. When they work wholeheartedly for the Thai people, both of them are very attentive. HM the King has followed irrigation works. He sends for officials to come to the hospital every day.”

Doesn’t she watch television? During the news on every station there is a daily rundown of royal activities, often stretching to well beyond 10 minutes. However, she seems to want an additional 10 minutes. Maybe she doesn’t get those channels that are non-stop royal propaganda, almost 24 hours a day? What she is asking for is increased propaganda. PPT thinks this would be a great way to develop the anti-monarchy movement further and faster.

Woody says: “The young generation has the perception through the media that the Bureau of the Royal Household has done everything. HM…”. Chulabhorn says: “HM gives the orders himself.” So we can also assume that he knows what the Crown Property Bureau is doing and what is going on with lese majeste.

She then talks more on politics:

Frankly, both their majesties are concerned with unity among Thai people, because if there are divisions, enemies can easily attack us. The Thai people must be strong, be friendly to each other and be united, so that the country will progress. In fact, I don’t get mixed up in politics. I don’t want to say who is good or bad. I don’t know. Because I’ve never associated with politicians.

Well, the news is she is involved in politics and so are most royals, as WikiLeaks has shown.This statement is in itself political. She goes further:

But I know that what happened last year, when the country was burnt, brought great sorrow to Their Majesties the King and Queen. HM the King had been able to re-learn to walk, and then he collapsed. He had a fever, had to be put on a saline drip and was confined to bed. HM the Queen was also very sad. She said that it was even sadder than when our country, Ayutthaya, was burnt by the Burmese because this time it was done by the Thais ourselves.

This is a remarkable statement, linking the palace and herself to the anti-red shirt movement.Of course, informed readers will have already known this, but now it has been clearly stated. And, just before a (promised) election! Is she campaigning for the Democrat Party?

How does she see a way forward? She says: “Actually, being divisive is not good for the country. We should try to talk. Don’t use violence. Divisiveness and blocking roads makes traffic jams, and people are moody. I do not side with anyone, or any colour.” Right. She didn’t say anything like this after the People’s Alliance for Democracy divided the country, occupied Government House, occupied the airports, etc. In fact, she supported that group back then!

Playing politics is the norm for the royals and the palace.

An update on Chiranuch’s case

28 09 2010

PPT received the following regarding Chiranuch Premchaiporn’s case that had her briefly arrested and jailed a few days ago.

Facts concerning the Second Arrest of Chiranuch Premchaiporn


In September 2007, Chotisak Onsoong went to watch a movie and refused to stand up for the Royal Anthem played in the beginning. This caused an argument between him and another citizen, who later complaint to the police that Chotisak’s act was an insult to the King. Later in April 2008, the police filed a lèse-majesté charge against Chotisak. He gave an interview to Prachatai online newspaper, of which Chiranuch Premchaiporn is a director. The interview was published online and received huge attention. Over 200 comments on the interview were posted within a week after.

On April 28, 2008, Sunimit Chirasuk, a Khon Kaen citizen, lodged a complaint at Khon Kaen provincial police station against Prachatai that several comments on that interview were a defamation to the Monarchy. An arrest warrant for Chiranuch was issued on September 8, 2009, but there has never been any summons received by Chiranuch until she got arrested on September 24, 2010, at Bangkok International Airport. There has been a remark from the public that between the arrest warrant issuance and the day she got arrested, Chiranuch has traveled abroad for many times and has never shown any sign of fleeing from her other case.

Related Laws

The Criminal Code (1956):

Section 112
Whoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.

Section 116
Whoever makes an appearance to the public by words, writings or any other means which is not an act within the purpose of the Constitution or for expressing an honest opinion or criticism in order:
1. To bring about a change in the Laws of the Country or the Government by the use of force or violence;
2. To raise unrest and disaffection amongst the people in a manner likely to cause disturbance in the country; or
3. To cause the people to transgress the laws of the Country, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding seven years.

The Computer-Related Crime Act of Thailand (2007):

Section 14
Any person who commits an offence by any of the following acts shall be subject to imprisonment for not more than five years or a fine of not more than one hundred thousand baht or both:
(1) that involves import into a computer system of forged computer data, either in whole or in part, or false computer data, in a manner that is likely to cause damage to a third party or the public;
(2) that involves import into a computer system of false computer data in a manner that is likely to damage the country’s security or cause public panic;
(3) that involves import into a computer system of any computer data related with an offence against the Kingdom’s security under the Criminal Code;
(4) that involves import to a computer system of any computer data of a pornographic nature that is publicly accessible;
(5) that involves the dissemination or forwarding of computer data already known to be computer data under (1) (2) (3) or (4);

Section 15
Any service provider intentionally supporting or consenting to an offence under Section 14 within a computer system under their control shall be subject to the same penalty as that imposed upon a person committing an offence under Section 14.

The Arrest

At 14.00 September 24, 2010, Chiranuch and her colleague, Arthit Suriyawongkul, arrived at Bangkok International Airport after attending the Internet at Liberty 2010 conference in Budapest, Hundary. She was stopped at the immigration checkpoint and was shown an arrest warrant.

Chiranuch then contacted her lawyer. The police informed her that she had to report at Khon Kaen provincial police station where the warrant was issued. Her lawyer called the police station about the bail, which was revealed to be 200,000 Baht (approx. 6,500 US Dollars). At 17.30 the
immigration police officers escorted her (and Arthit as a company) to Nakhon Ratchasima to hand her to Khon Kaen police.

Chiranuch arrived at the police station at 23.30. Her lawyer accompanying with her colleagues at Prachatai arrived later at midnight. She was finally bailed out at 1.00. The interrogation continued until 2.30. Everyone immediately headed back to Bangkok.


According to the arrest warrant, Chiranuch is charged for:

● Defaming, insulting or threatening the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent

● Making an appearance to the public by words, writings or any other means which is not an act within the purpose of the Constitution or for expressing an honest opinion or criticism in order to raise unrest and disaffection amongst the people in a manner likely to cause disturbance in the country; or to cause the people to transgress the laws of the Country

● Importing into a computer system of any computer data related with an offence against the Kingdom’s security under the Criminal Code

● Intentionally supporting or consenting to a computer-related offence within a computer system under own control


The approximate penalty, if all the charges are used by public prosecutor, can be up to 32 years in prison. Moreover, these charges can be taken separately and multiplied by the number of comments that are considered offensive.

Legal Timeline

April 28, 2008 – Sunimit Chirasuk lodged a complaint against Prachatai at Khon Kaen provincial police station

September 8, 2009 – An arrest warrant was issued by Khon Kaen court.

September 24, 2010 – Chiranuch was arrested and was bailed out at 1.00 September 25, 2010.

From now on, Chiranuch has to report to Khon Kaen provincial police station once a month until the case is either dismissed or filed to the public prosecutor.

Reactions on the Internet

Soon after the arrest, internet users started to promote her cause in Twitter using a tag “#freejiew”. A blog was created to aggregate all related materials. Prachatai and foreign media constantly reported on the issue and human rights organisations put up statements and petitions to support the cause. After details about the bail spread, Digital Democracy set up a platform for people to donate for the bail money.

PPT comment: Readers in Thailand report that the first of these sites is being attacked by apparently pro-yellow shirt internet activists while the second site now blocked, with the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations message coming up. That latter blocking is indeed ironic given Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s comments that the only censorship was against red shirt sites calling for violence or hatred…. As PPT has pointed out several times, the premier is an inveterate liar on matters of repression and censorship. He should be condemned.

With 6 updates: Chiranuch Premchaiporn detained

24 09 2010

Prachatai has just posted news that Chiranuch Premchaiporn, their editor, has just been detained at Suvarnibhumi Airport. At this time, very little information is known, other than there is an arrest warrant for her from the Khon Kaen provincial court, and after primary details have been reported, she will be taken, via car, to the Khon Kaen police station. The charge against her is not yet known. Chiranuch was returning from the Internet at Liberty 2010 conference in Hungary when she was arrested.

In a separate case, Chiranuch has been charged with ten counts of violating the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. Read about those accusations, for which the trial will begin in February, here.

PPT is very concerned about Chiranuch’s case and well-being, and will post information as it becomes available.

Update 1: The Nation has posted a short account that says the charge against Chiranuch is lese majeste. It also states she was returning from Finland and that she has been taken to Khon Kaen.

Update 2: Prachatai’s report on Chiranuch getting bail is reproduced here:

At about 1 am on 25 Sept, Chiranuch Premchaiporn was granted bail after placing 200,000 baht in cash as a guarantee.  She denied all charges during police interrogation.

She has to report to the police at Khon Kaen Police Station on 24 Oct.

Over a dozen readers of Prachatai in Khon Kaen gathered at the police station to give her moral support.

Sunimit Jirasuk, a local businessman in Khon Kaen, filed the charges with police against Prachatai and Same Sky websites in April 2008 for readers’ comments posted on both websites about the case of Chotisak Onsung [also see here] who refused to stand up for the royal anthem in a cinema and faced police charges.

The provincial court issued an arrest warrant for Chiranuch at the request of police on 8 Sept 2009. has been set up to tweet updates about Chiranuch’s case.  Jiew is her nickname.

There’s also a report at Reporters Without Borders, calling her arrest “unacceptable.”

Update 3: It seems that Chiranuch was arrested without a summons being issued. See this Prachatai report:

According to Matichon, Pol Lt Col Chachpong Pongsuwan, investigator at Khon Kaen Police Station, said that a lèse majesté charge had been lodged against Chiranuch Premchaiporn since 2008. The case has been vetted by the Provincial Police Board Region 4, and is now being prosecuted by a department of the National Police Bureau. A summons is not necessary in this case because the offence carries a severe penalty.

It seems there is confusion in the various reports as to whether this is a computer crimes case or a lese majeste allegation. It seems the policeman cited above sees the two as essentially the same, and that is effectively how the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime has used the two laws.

Update 4: Chiranuch says: “Finally, I’m free by bail out. Thanks for all support.”

Also check the origins of the case here, where Article 116 (2) of the Thai Criminal Code is cited. It “stipulates that anybody who publicizes verbally or in writing or by any other means in a manner which is not constitutional or not in good faith to affect changes in laws or government by force, to incite unrest among the public, or to persuade people to violate the laws, is subject to a maximum of 7 years imprisonment.”

Update 5: Andrew Marshall’s post is worth a read as is this NY Times report.

Update 6: The Bangkok Post has a useful summary account of the events in Chiranuch’s case.

Updated: Foreign Correspondent on the monarchy

15 04 2010

PPT earlier posted on this controversial program. It seems to be currently available. We had listed the site, but this might be a safer way to get people to the link: Google for : Foreign Correspondent 13/04/10, and then click the link to get to the download page.

Update: PPT has now watched the show. It will no doubt become a classic. There are a couple of factual errors but it seems reasonably accurate. Our main issue with the show is that it accepts almost all of the propaganda about the king as if it is fact – that he is universally revered, does good works and so on – and uses this to question the credibility of the prince. Thankfully a number of the interviewees are not so convinced.

Surprisingly, there is no mention of the monarchy’s great wealth.

The show included useful interviews with  Chiranuch Premchaiporn and Chotisak Onsoong. And it was especially good to see The Nation’s Thanong Khanthong exposes as a dissembler for the monarchy. In fact, Thanong brazenly lies when he says he never concerns himself with private matters (referring to the prince), when the Nation has been regularly reporting on Thaksin Shinawatra’s personal affairs, and dare we say it, even making stuff up.

BBC, Handley, lese majeste and fear

4 12 2009

Also available as บีบีซี แฮนด์ลี่ กฎหมายหมิ่นฯ และ ความกลัว

The BBC’s Alastair Leithead has a long report on the king’s muted birthday celebrations this year that becomes a comment on lese majeste and politics (4 December 2009: “Thais worried by health of King and country”). The story is framed in odd and contradictory ways, but readers will understand why.

Like others, Leithead observes that the king’s health and the continuing political crisis are “worrying many people in the kingdom who fear instability and a deepening crisis.”

This framing of the king’s health and political crisis as separate issues (see Time magazine’s report also) is really separating the inseparable as monarchy and political crisis are clearly intertwined.

Leithead also apparently uncritically accepts that the “king has been the country’s unifying figure for decades and is seen to have intervened positively in times of crisis,” ignoring events such as the 1976 massacre and the king’s personal role in that and the 2006 coup.

Then under the sub-header of “Why Thai king is so revered,” he reveals that he has talked with Paul Handley, the author of the banned The King Never Smiles. Leithead then says: “If we were to repeat here what is in the book, or what he told me in a telephone interview, I could be reported for an offence of ‘lese majeste’ or insulting the monarchy, be investigated by the police and face possible imprisonment in Thailand.” He adds: “If Paul Handley came here he would probably also be arrested for writing a book seen as critical, and speculating about the future.”

He cites Handley only on succession: “For the public I think there is a lot of confusion. Even though we have a named Crown Prince, no one from the palace is saying this is settled, because no one really wants to talk about [the inevitable]…. They also know the Crown Prince by his reputation,” adding “but it’s a reputation people cannot openly discuss.”

The report then discusses lese majeste, observing that: “Satirical websites poke fun at a deadly serious issue – people can be charged or even jailed for just talking about what eventually may happen to the king. Thais and foreigners alike speak in hushed tones about the Royal Family because of this lese majeste law.”

Then Leithead provides the current government’s justification of such repression as if it were fact, saying that the lese majeste law “is designed to protect the king and the royal institution from defamation and libel as the royal family is not protected by the courts in the usual way.” In fact, lese majeste is a law used for political purposes and to prevent discussion of alternatives to the current system of government.

The articles does cite Shawn Crispin, who represents the Committee to Protect Journalists in South East Asia, and who himself faced accusations of lese majeste in 2002: “The application and increasing use of these lese majeste laws represents a very serious threat to press freedom in Thailand.” Crispin adds that this draconian law “may be undermining the institution this law was designed to protect.”

Leithead then states that: “There are still some websites which are still operating, among them Same Sky which has a chatroom dedicated to discussions about Thai politics and royalty.” Actually the Fa Diew Kan webboard does more than this and one of the figures associated with it – Thanapol Eawsakul – has been charged with lese majeste. Leithead says that it does sometime contain critical comments on the monarchy, adding: “to translate them and publish them here could also leave me open to possible imprisonment.”

Then more attention to the hagiographical nonsense: “There is no denying the real, unconditional love people have here for King Bhumibol Adulyadej. His picture can be seen in many public places, the national anthem is played twice daily across the country and everyone stands for the king’s anthem which is played in cinemas before every film.” But he contradicts this immediatley, citing the case of the also charged Chotisak Onsoong who for “the past five years has not stood for the king’s anthem.”

The necessarily odd and contradictory tone of the report is repeated in its last sentences: “Thailand is a deeply divided and unstable country and there is fear for its future without the revered leadership, but there is also fear over what people can even say out loud about certain members of the Royal Family.”

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