There have been several reports of late about Thailand’s lese majeste political exiles. One of these appeared in the influential Malaysiakini, written as a special report by Susan Loone. We felt it worth reproducing, with a few notes added and some clarifications:
Thai exiles want ‘free, democratic Thailand’
On Dec 1, several NGOs protested the visit of Thailand Prime Minister [they mean The Dictator and self-appointed premier] Prayuth Chan Ocha to Malaysia, in solidarity with the Thai exiles, who urged other countries Prayuth visits to follow the example of Malaysians in sending a strong message that they opposed the Thai military dictatorship.
Malaysiakini spoke to several Thai exiles, who expressed their desire to see a liberated Thailand in their lifetime.
One of them, Jakrapob Penkair, was a university professor and a TV journalist before devoting his time to politics in 2003.
During Thaksin Shinawatra’s rule, Jakrapob … was a Member of Parliament, representing Bangkok, besides being a minister in the Thai Prime Minister’s Office and a government spokesperson.
He helped formed the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) and was subsequently jailed for 12 days for his anti-military coup activities.
As a cabinet member, he was about to relinquish state powers when he was accused of lèse majesté, the law that punishes citizens for insulting the royalty.
Jakrapob left his beloved country on April 14, 2009 and has never since returned. And he has not never given up on his political beliefs either.
“We hope to undo the brainwashing of Thailand and to continue with the process of democratisation.
“We Thais have been led to believe that the King of Thailand can right all the wrongs and we need not have confidence in ourselves, but just to believe in him.
“No country can depend on one person, although one good leader can encourage several more people to move and shake,” Jakrapob told Malaysiakini in an interview recently.
He is proud and grateful that several Malaysian activists protested against Prayuth’s visit to Malaysia on Dec 1.
“You made it clear to the dictator of your disgust and disdain about him and his kind. We would like to express our appreciation to all of you.
“We understand that your internal struggle is no less tough and tiresome. We hope to be able to join forces for you as well,” he said.
Junya Lek Yimprasert is a Thai labour rights activist who fights and writes about exploitation at the bottom of supply chains.
After the massacre of civilians by military forces in Bangkok in May 2010, Junya wrote ‘Why I don’t love the King’ and was charged with lèse majesté.
She has, since July 2010, been living in Finland as a “political refugee”.
“The last straw that made me leave was after seeing many trade unions and NGOs become part of the royalists movement to kick out many elected governments since 2005.
“My last straw was seeing 40,000 military troops crackdown violently on the demonstrators, which caused some 100 people to be killed and nearly 2,000 injured,” she said in an interview with Malaysiakini.
‘Even those in exile face threats’
But being in exile does not guarantee freedom from violence or fear.
Junya … said the Thais who are living in exile from the military regime also face much threats, from both ultra royalists and the military, as well as imprisonment, without any chance to defend themselves.
“For me, being wanted by the Thai military junta as ‘a criminal and a treat to national security’ for my writings is something that hit me hard in terms of recognising that the road of struggle for democracy and freedom in Thailand will be long and with lots of obstacles,” she said.
Like many who live in exile, Junya is not happy to see Prayuth welcomed warmly in Malaysia by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
She then went on to call upon Malaysians to oppose the Thai junta and not allow Prayuth to poison the aspirations for freedom and democracy in her country.
“It’s important for Malaysia, for Thailand and for Asean as a whole that the people of Asean stay in solidarity to uphold the principle of freedom and democracy. The Thai people are very much in need of solidarity from you all to help us fight against the dictatorial military regime,” she said.
Suda Rangkupan was an assistant professor at the Department of Linguistics in the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, from 2000 to 2004 before she fled Thailand.
Suda was part of the well-known movement, “29 Jan 10,000 Liberate”, where 10,000 people called for amnesty for political prisoners.
She left Thailand after the coup, on May 22 last year, after realising that the Red Shirt Movement to oppose the military coup could not be pushed further at that time.
She does not accept the coup as the orders of its leader, Prayuth …, are “illegal and an act of rebellion”.
“However, I realise how brutal the Royal Thai Army, which took control of Thailand, is to the Red Shirts so I decided to leave Thailand, hoping that the least I can do as a free person is to tell the world that not all Thais surrender to this latest royal coup,” she said.
‘Prayuth is just a junta leader’
Suda does not understand how anyone can accept Prayuth as the leader of Thailand. “I would not call him prime minister, for he is just a junta leader,” she said.
Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an associate professor at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University in Japan has been summoned twice by the Thai junta for his criticisms of the military.
“I rejected the call and as a consequence, the junta issued a warrant for my arrest. Shortly afterwards, my passport was revoked and this forced me to apply for refugee status with the Japanese government,” Pavin … said.
He now feels safe in Japan, for the government there looks after him well, he said. He has a permanent job, with a steady income and a sense of security.
“Hopefully, I will be granted refugee status in the future and this will allow me to travel legally, which is a important part of me as an academician, for I need to travel for my work.”
Pavin’s message to Prayuth, nevertheless, remains clear: “Return power to the Thai people immediately. Stop violating the people’s rights.
“The military must withdraw itself from politics; the military must also stop politicising the monarchy for its own political interests.”
The coordinator of the Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy, Jaran Ditapichai, said Thais who love freedom and democracy need moral and political support, notably from the international community, to stop the human rights violations the ruling junta carries out daily.
Jaran is currently in political asylum, under the juridicial and administrative protection of France.
“I have several good friends, both Europeans and Thais, who are keeping an eye over me.
“But the big problem is how to earn living in this country, where the cost of living is high,” said Jaran, who was a former adviser to a deputy prime minister and a former national human rights commissioner of Thailand.
The leader of the … United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship, which is also known as the Red Shirt Movement, is thankful to Malaysian politicians, human rights and democratic NGOs and the media that reported the protest against Prayuth during his visit to Malaysia.
“I hope friends of human rights and democracy in the other Asean countries will openly express their what they think of the Thai military leadership, like how the Malaysians have done,” Jaran added.