Updated: 112 = 55+

22 01 2021

The tally of known lese majeste cases has now shot past 50 and is heading for 60. These known cases involved almost 100 counts of lese majeste.

The graphic is from Prachatai:

Update: Pravit Rojanaphruk’s comments in an op-ed are fitting: “Draconian, disproportionate, anachronistic, outrageous, barbaric, unjust…”.

So are the BBC’s Jonathan Head’s comments, in the same article, commenting on Anchan’s bail application being rejected :

“This sums up the madness of lese majeste, and the warped reasoning it produces. How many royalists were ‘traumatized’ by the podcasts this lady posted? How many even heard them? Does the judge know?”





Updated: Prem dead II

27 05 2019

As mentioned in our earlier post, buffalo manure is to be piled high for the deceased Gen Prem Tinsulanonda. That said, there are some interesting accounts emerging. We link to some of them here and comment briefly on some of them.

The Bangkok Post has a couple of stories and will probably have more. One of these is a listing of Prem’s “achievements” and refers to him by the kindly term “Pa Prem.” In fact, Prem’s career was of an ambitious right-wing military leader. A second item in the Post is an editorial. Like the previous king, Prem is said to be “revered.” It would be more accurate to say that some rightist, royalist Thais revere Prem for his “loyalty” and steadfast opposition to elected government. Indeed, many Thais hated Prem as an unelected politician and incessant political meddler.

The main error in this editorial is the mistaken view that Prem decided of his own volition to leave his unelected premiership in 1988. The editorial states:

Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha] and the regime would do well not to forget Gen Prem’s wise decision to relinquish power before the tide turned against him. The regime has been accused of trying to hold on to power at any cost, which is at odds with the example set by Gen Prem.

This view is mistaken as it ignores the long and intense political struggle that eventually forced Prem out. Indeed, that is what will be needed to force out out the Prem-ist junta and its illegitimate political child, the Palang Pracharath-manipulated coalition.

AP has a sound obituary that appropriately links Prem and Prayuth. It also makes a useful point via academic Kevin Hewison:

That coup [2006] was probably Prem’s last major political intervention, and it was one where he misjudged…. He expected elation and praise for his open role in getting rid of Thaksin. Instead, his intervention lit the fuse of a political polarization that continues to haunt Thailand’s elite.

The New York Times obituary is useful and forthright, with another academic, Duncan McCargo noting Prem’s long alliance with the last king:

The king trusted Prem absolutely … seeing him as an incorruptible figure who shared his soft and understated approach, but who was a skilled alliance-builder and wielder of patronage.

We are not quite sure how McCargo knows Bhumibol’s views, but his comment recalls his coining of the term “network monarchy” that describes Prem and the king’s manner of meddling in all manner of things in Thailand.

Reuters mentions Prem’s political meddling and the rewards he received from the conglomerates that benefited from his promotion of monarchy. Prem provided the links – the network – for Sino-Thai tycoons to connect with the palace and his politics provided considerable protection for the ruling class and its profits.

BBC News quotes its correspondent Jonathan Head on Prem’s role in making the monarchy more overtly political:

He will be remembered as an ardent royalist who helped to cement the monarchy’s place at the very top of modern Thailand’s power structure….

AFP has a measured account of Prem’s political meddling and the rise of the monarchy:

Hailed as a stabilising force by allies but loathed by critics as a conservative underminer of democracy in the kingdom, General Prem was a top aide to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and helped cement the unshakeable bond between the monarchy and the military.

It adds that “General Prem became a figure of revulsion in Thailand’s pro-democracy camp.”

Update: Bloomberg’s story on Prem’s death hits the nail on the head: “Royal Aide Accused of Plotting Thai Coup on Thaksin Dies at 98.”





Ultra-royalists on the warpath

4 11 2017

In a post on lese majeste just a few days ago, we observed that the dead king’s funeral provided another opportunity for ultra-royalism to reach yet another high point. Unfortunately, it only took a few days for this to be reinforced.

Watch this video of the BBC’s Jonathan Head as he speaks to Narisa Chakrabongse, the great-granddaughter of King Chulalongkorn, who was King Bhumibol’s grandfather. This was on 25 October.

According to some ultra-royalists, this interview constitutes lese majeste.

A youth group we haven’t heard of before, calling itself Young Thai Blood has demanded the dismissal of Head for what they consider was a questioning royalist propaganda (rather than reinforcing it).

We couldn’t help wondering about the rightist congruence on identification, from the Hitler Youth – “Blood and Honour” – to the Unite the Right rally in the US and their use of “Blood and Soil,” adopted from Nazi Party ideology.

Such references suggest the group probably has links with security agencies in Thailand and is likely a creation of those agencies. Interestingly, though, social media comment suggests that the original complaint came from a disgruntled expatriate.

As usual, when the boys of Young Thai Blood claim “Thai blood” for themselves, it is not clear that they really mean “blood.” Rather, it seems they mean a state of mind encased in a body located in the country now called Thailand.

These ultra-royalist dunces rallied on 2 November 2017, and “filed a petition at the British Embassy in Bangkok, urging the UK government to dismiss Jonathan Head, South East Asia Correspondent for BBC News.”

Obviously, these lads don’t are confused and understand that the “BBC is a statutory corporation, independent from direct government intervention…” and that they should have addressed the BBC rather than the Embassy. They blustered and made demands:

Young Thai Blood stated that Head’s question created a misunderstanding about the late King. The question [about the genuineness of love] allegedly reflected the BBC journalist’s lack of knowledge about Thai culture, despite Head having been stationed in Thailand for many years. In addition to calling for Head’s dismissal from the BBC, the group asked for an official apology to all Thai people for having disrespected their beliefs and culture.

“As young people who have Thai blood, we therefore call on the UK government to consider the action of the reporter of the BBC Thailand office and terminate his duty in Thailand, and for the office to publish a statement of apology to Thai people throughout the country,” said Petchmongkol Wassuwan, the group’s representative.

Like all ultra-royalists, they claim to speak for all Thais rather than themselves or their group.

Ominously, these ultra-royalist babblings were supported by M.L. Panadda Disakul, a prince and the Deputy Minister of Education, who says that “Head does not understand Thai history, culture or social etiquette, which should be basic knowledge for any correspondent working in Thailand.” He means that all foreign correspondents should shut up about the monarchy except when producing the same trip that emanates from palace and state propaganda agencies. The princeling called for Head’s expulsion: “He should go back and rest in his home country first…”.

Such rightist rants fit well with the monarchy-military alliance that is seeking to dominate Thailand well into the future.





The weight of lese majeste

18 06 2017

In a report for From Our Correspondents, the BBC’s Jonathan Head reports from Chiang Mai on the “weight of Thailand’s lese majeste law, which protects the country’s royal family from insult – and meets a family who found themselves on the wrong side of it. Yet he also hears from some of the many Thais who passionately defend their monarchy on any and every media platform.”

The ultra-royalists who hunt down and report those who they think insult the monarchy show no remorse for, in this case, having a mother who knew little about the way she was railroaded through the “justice” system jailed for years and years.

Protecting the monarchy is a savage business.





BBC on a triple transition

23 03 2017

Jonathan Head’s recent report on Wat Dhammakaya is worth reading. We won’t go through it all and will just post some clips from it. It skillfully weaves a story that ends with this:

Thailand is in the midst of a complex and potentially dangerous, triple transition; a delicate royal succession, a battle over the future of Buddhism and a still uncertain political transition to a military-guided democracy.

Given that, a sect as controversial as Wat Dhammakaya was perhaps bound to be caught up in the turbulence.

 It begins by noting the smoke and mirrors of Thailand’s (in)justice system:

Over the past month what is often cited as the world’s largest Buddhist temple, on the outskirts of Bangkok, has been the scene of an extraordinary stalemate.

Police officers, in rows three deep, blocked the gates to the Wat Dhammakaya temple compound. Around the back, helmeted soldiers guarded alleyways, with some crawling through surrounding rice-fields. It was, they explained, a restricted military zone….

The official reason for this siege was that the elderly abbot, Phra Dhammachayo, was wanted on multiple criminal charges related to a collapsed credit union and police believed he was being hidden inside the temple….

But then, after three weeks, the operation was suddenly called off…. Even now it remains unclear what exactly the police wanted to achieve.

As so often in Thailand, the official explanation is misleading. Allegations of financial malpractice have hung over the temple and its charismatic abbot for decades. They also hang over many other institutions and individuals in Thailand, many of whom are neither investigated nor prosecuted. To be pursued by the state with this much commitment suggests that much larger issues are at stake.

The military dictatorship is said to have several motives for its odd behavior on the temple. One observation is that:

… it should come as no surprise that a military government bent on restoring traditional values, and backed by ultra-conservatives who want to see the Buddhist clergy cleansed of corrupting, modern influences, dislikes Wat Dhammakaya.

Then there’s the weapons “seized” a few days ago.

… the government continues to push its argument that there is something sinister about Wat Dhammakaya.

Last weekend the police showed off a large cache of weapons seized, they said, from the home of a now-exiled dissident. Although many of the weapons were ancient, the police argued that there was a plan to arm the temple’s supporters and even to assassinate top government officials.

One of PPT’s readers, with decades of military service has also pointed out that the cache of weapons was made up of mostly old and some pretty useless guns and accessories. The BBC seems to find the link as wondrous as we do, but points to the junta’s political motives and makes a good point:

Indeed the temple is the largest institution in the country not under the military’s control, and its refusal to hand over its abbot is the most sustained defiance of military rule since the coup.

Then there’s the “triple transition,” with the monarchy going through change as the new king stamps his reign as fundamentally different from his father’s.

Just as the monarchy is seen by Thailand’s [military] rulers as the essential institution holding the country together and legitimising governments, so the monarch’s official role as protector of Buddhism gives each occupant of the throne a unique, sacred stature. Kings preside over the most important Buddhist rituals at the most prestigious temples. The two institutions reinforce each other.

… King Vajirakongkorn’s command to strip the royal monastic titles from Phra Dhammachayo and his de facto replacement as abbot also signals royal support for the government’s move against the temple.

It is an interesting read.





The junta and foreign media

6 02 2016

The Bangkok Post reports that Thailand’s military junta is “[c]oncerned over its international image…”.

We find this curious. Either the junta is so lacking in international perspective and knowledge that it fails to understand that the media and its interests or it misunderstands its own profile and performance. It may well be both of these.

Clearly, if the junta thinks that “tighten[ing] its rules on foreign media working in Thailand, prompting the denial of work permits for some foreign journalists” is going to produce a better image among those journalists and the international media, then it has lost its collective marbles.Marbles

The report cites Jonathan Head, president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) and BBC correspondent. He says that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs makes the interview it conducts with those seeking a press card more difficult than it has been in the past. The report states that “many journalists who underwent an interview to obtain their work permit for the first time have described the process as often ‘unpleasant’ and ‘hostile’.”

The officials make it clear they want compliance, “asking the applicants for their opinions on the junta and the monarchy…”.

Media activist Subhatra Bhumiprabhas is also quoted, and compares “Thailand’s current press freedom situation to Myanmar’s at the height of its dictatorship.”

As we have said several times previously, Thailand is run by a bunch of knuckle draggers who have heads firmly lodged in a past era and are incapable of understanding the modern world. Their limited understanding of Thailand is shaped by their experience as loyalist slitherers who have spent more time on their bellies before bosses than developing knowledge and capacities that would allow them to run a modern country.

When they don’t get “loyalty” from Thais or foreigners, they become confused and disoriented. Their reaction is thus to repress or extinguish this “threat.” The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, displays this trait in all his dealings with the media.





BBC on Corruption Park, lese majeste and repression

13 12 2015

So deep has become the political malaise in Thailand that many are wondering what the military junta thinks it is doing. No one seems to understand the bizarre behavior exhibited by the regime. Is it worried about political opposition, the death of the king and succession, face, all of these? Is it a case of a leadership suffering political insanity? Is the regime simply incompetent, populated by loyalists with no ability or capacity? Is it something else?

Jonathan Head at the BBC attempts to explain things to an outside audience, but it is admittedly very difficult to explain the extraordinary events taking place in the country. Some of the commentary:

The [Corruption Park] project has been tarnished by allegations of corruption – a scourge General Prayuth [Chan-ocha] promised to tackle when he seized power last year.

Other government-backed ventures intended to showcase support for the monarchy have been similarly tainted. Not just by allegations of mismanaged funds, but also by the mysterious deaths in custody, or disappearances, of people who had been close to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn.

A straight forward statement:

The officially-sanctioned view of the monarchy is that it is loved and respected by all Thais, who support the law.

In fact, there are Thais who take a different view, but who do not dare to express it publicly.

… [T]he military set about trying to burnish the public image of Prince Vajiralongkorn, in preparation for him to succeed the ailing King Bhumibol.

The lese majeste law makes it impossible for anyone in Thailand to speak frankly about members of the royal family. The commonly-used way to describe the comparison between the heir and the King is that “he does not enjoy the same popularity as his father.”

The number of people charged or jailed under the junta for alleged lese majeste is said to be more than 100.

The video interview with Major General Werachon Sukondhapatipak is remarkably revealing of a regime that appears to have become entirely focused on repression.

The report states, and we have to agree: “Few people outside the top ranks of the military can know what lies behind these disturbing developments.” It is added:

Many people in Thailand believe the revelations indicate divisions at the top over how to handle the royal succession, and crucially, who has control over this historic transition.

Is the king dead or about to be allowed to die?





Is this a rogue regime or a failed state?

9 12 2015

Khaosod reports that police are investigating US Ambassador “Glyn Davies is under investigation for critical comments he made about Thailand’s harsh law against defaming the monarchy, known as lese majeste.”

Seriously, even for the military dictatorship, this is completely mad:

Police are investigating whether Davies himself is guilty of defaming the monarchy for comments made late last month at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, where the top American diplomat expressed “concern” about recent record sentences handed down by military tribunals for the crime, the club’s president confirmed Wednesday.

FCCT President Jonathan Head, a longtime BBC correspondent, said on Twitter this morning the club had been asked to cooperate with a police investigation into Davies after Sontiya Sawasdee, a member of a group calling itself Federation Monitoring the Thai State, filed a complaint Thursday.

Is it that the junta has decided that Thailand is so “special” that no comment at all is possible about its monarchy? When an op-ed says that Thailand is “is a relatively mature social system capable of self-management and an example for less fortunate societies,” and then contends that “the simple fact that Thailand has failed to find effective solutions to its painful internal struggles for nearly a full decade indicates otherwise,” we must agree. Marbles

When the junta looks to charges a foreign diplomat with lese majeste, it is clear that the regime has lost its marbles.

Sure, the US has no great record in human rights globally, but taking mild comments by its ambassador to police investigation is simply mad and unbelievable.

Even as the only military dictatorship in the world, this move is suggestive of a rogue state or a failed state.





Updated: BBC on king’s health

23 11 2014

As readers will know, the king went back into hospital on 3 October this year, and since then there have been several official reports stating that he has had relatively minor ailments related to stomach inflammation and related issues.

The BBC has reported that the king has “failed to appear for a scheduled event, raising fresh concern about his health.” He was scheduled to “preside over the confirmation of two ministers appointed by PM [they mean The Dictator and general] Prayuth Chan-ocha…”. The king’s minders canceled.

The report notes that the king’s “health is a sensitive issue in Thailand” and adds that “[a]ny discussion about the royal succession is tightly constrained by a stringent lese-majeste law.”

That sounds like a death watch is established.

The report then makes this somewhat odd claim that warrants a footnote: “BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok says he is accorded a revered status that is considered vital to the country’s stability.” That is the usual media claim, but here the BBC seems to be disowning it.

Update: BBC Television is now reporting that the king met with The Dictator and his two ministers last evening for 45 minutes.





The prince and lese majeste

16 12 2010

PPT understand this Guardian story is now blocked in Thailand. Photo and links added by PPT:

WikiLeaks cables: Thai leaders doubt suitability of prince to become king

Embassy cables reveal fears over heir’s womanising and links to ousted PM damaging stabilising role of monarchy in Thailand

Mark Tran

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 15 December 2010 21.30 GMT

Thai leaders harbour grave misgivings about the crown prince’s fitness to become king owing to his reputation as a womaniser and links to a fugitive former prime minister, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.

1981 - added to post by PPT

Three senior members of Thailand’s powerful privy council, a group of advisers appointed by the king, make clear their preference for an alternative to Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, who is considered a political liability because of his extramarital affairs in several European countries.

The succession is of pressing concern as King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who turned 83 this month, is in poor health. Revered by most Thais, he is one of the few unifying figures in a country deeply divided between an urban elite and a rural poor.

The great fear within the authorities is that with the divisive figure of the crown prince as king, any future political turbulence could split Thailand in two. The military and the police rely on loyalty to the crown to maintain control and without it their authority would be greatly weakened.

This year Thailand experienced the worst political violence in its modern history. Ninety-one people died as protesters who support Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted as prime minister in a 2006 military coup, called for the dissolution of parliament and new elections. A state of emergency imposed at the time still remains in force.

The cable, written by the US ambassador, Eric John, in January, reports on his conversations with General Prem Tinsulanonda, the head of the privy council and a former prime minister, Anand Panyarachun, another former prime minister, and Air Chief Marshall Siddhi Savetsila.

“All three had quite negative comments about Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn,” the cable reads. “While asserting that the crown prince will become King, both Siddhi and Anand implied the country would be better off if other arrangements could be made. Siddhi expressed preference for Princess Sirindhorn; Anand suggested only the King would be in a position to change succession, and acknowledged a low likelihood of that happening.”

There are repeated references to the prince’s affairs. When the US ambassador asked where the prince was, Prem is quoted as saying: “You know his social life, how he is,” which John says is a “presumed reference to Vajiralongkorn’s preference to spend time based out of Munich with his main mistress, rather than in Thailand with his wife and son”.

John also conveys Siddhi’s observations about the prince’s dalliances. The cable states: “Siddhi, in a similar vein, noted that the Crown Prince frequently slipped away from Thailand, and that information about his air hostess mistresses was widely available on websites; he lamented how his former aide, now Thai ambassador to Germany, was forced to leave Berlin for Munich often to receive Vajiralongkorn.”

Apart from their concerns over the prince’s behaviour, the privy council members also express unease over his ties with the fugitive ex-prime minister Thaksin, best known in the UK for owning Manchester City football club from 2007 to 2008. Thaksin spends most of his time in Dubai in self-imposed exile.

“Prem acknowledged Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn probably maintained some sort of relationship with fugitive former PM Thaksin, ‘seeing him from time to time’. Prem, clearly no fan of either man, cautioned that Thaksin ran the risk of self-delusion if he thought that the Crown Prince would act as his friend/supporter in the future merely because of Thaksin’s monetary support; ‘he does not enjoy that sort of relationship.'”

In the cable, Anand blames the king’s poor health partly on Thaksin, who at the time was acting as a political adviser to the Cambodian government. The king was in hospital in January, exercising 30 minutes a day on a stationary bicycle and passing a medicine ball with a physical therapist to build up strength and regain weight.

Despite their reservations about the crown prince, John’s interlocutors seemed resigned to his becoming king.

“Anand said that he had always believed that the Crown Prince would succeed his father, according to law. However, there could be complicating factors – if Vajiralongkorn proved unable to stay out of politics, or avoid embarrassing financial transactions … The consensus view among many Thai was that the Crown Prince could not stop either, nor would he be able, at age 57, to rectify his behaviour,” the cable reads.

“After another pause, Anand added that someone really should raise the matter with the King, before adding with regret that there really was no one who could raise such a delicate topic (note: implied was the need for an alternative to Vajiralongkorn).”

Royal intrigue is also conveyed in another cable by John in October 2008. This confidential message reports on complaints by Samak Sundaravej, a former prime minister, that Queen Sirikit encouraged the coup that overthrew Thaksin.

“He showed disdain for Queen Sirikit,” John writes, “claiming that she had been responsible for the 2006 coup d’etat as well as the ongoing turmoil generated by PAD [People’s Alliance for Democracy] protests. He alleged the Queen operated through privy council president Prem Tinsulanonda who, along with others presenting themselves as royalists, worked with the PAD and other agitators. Citing his own regular meetings with King Bhumibol, Samak claimed he – rather than his opponents – was sincerely loyal to the king and enjoyed the king’s support.”

What constitutes an insult?

The Thai royal family is protected by the country’s lese majesty laws, making it an offence to insult the monarchy.

Under article 112, anyone can file a complaint against someone they consider to have defamed the monarch.

Missing from the code, however, is a definition of what actions constitute defamation or insult. Neither the king nor any member of the royal family has ever filed any charges under this law.

In 2005, King Bhumibol encouraged criticism: “I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I do wrong, because then I know.” He later added: “But the king can do wrong.”

Since 2005, use of the law has been on the rise, for politicians, journalists and activists.

In March 2007, a Swiss, Oliver Jufer, convicted of lese majesty, was sentenced to 10 years for spray-painting graffiti on portraits of the king while drunk. He was pardoned then deported.

In 2008, Jonathan Head, the BBC’s south-east Asia correspondent and vice-president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, was accused of lese majesty by a police colonel, Watanasak Mungkijakarndee. Watanasak said Head’s reporting between 2006 and 2008 had “damaged and insulted the monarchy”. The BBC rejected the charges as groundless.

Also in 2008, Harry Nicolaides, an Australian, was arrested at Bangkok’s international airport and charged with lese majesty, for an offending passage in his self-published book Verismilitude [large PDF download]. After pleading guilty, he was jailed for three years. He was deported last year after being pardoned by the king.

In June, the Thai government, which has removed tens of thousands of web pages in recent years for insulting the royal family, approved the creation of an online crime agency that will pursue alleged violators of the lese majesty laws.