Why the lese majeste law in Thailand is an abomination

3 03 2011

Giles Ji Ungpakorn has a new piece at Red Thai Socialist calling for the abolition of the lese majeste law:

The lese majeste law in Thailand represents a gross attack on the freedom of speech, freedom of expression and academic freedom. It is a fundamental attack on Democracy carried out by the Military, the Palace and the elites. The practical impact is that Thailand has struggled for years to achieve a fully developed democracy, a free press and internationally accepted academic standards in our universities.

Today, Da Torpedo, Red Eagle, Surachai Darnwattanan-nusorn (Sa-Darn) and many others are in prison in Thailand for merely expressing their beliefs in a peaceful way. In recent days arrest warrants have been issued for 5 more people and the police have a list of 30 more people who face arrest. Lese majeste prisoners are denied bail. The royalist judges claim that the offense is “too serious” and “a threat to national security”. Thai dictatorships have used the excuse that their opponents were seeking to “overthrow the Monarchy” in order to kill unarmed demonstrators in 1976 and 2010. Jail terms for lese majeste are draconian. Da is in prison for 18 years and prison conditions are appalling. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, the web manager of the independent Prachatai newspaper faces 50 years in prison for not removing other peoples’ web-posts. A student faces lese majeste charges for not standing up for the King’s anthem in the cinema and the Military-backed Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva tells lies about how he is committed to reforming the law. Abhisit and the army generals also tell lies about the deliberate state-ordered killings of unarmed protesters in May 2010.

In my particular case, my own university gave my anti-coup book to the police special branch, which resulted in a lese majeste prosecution against me. Imagine the impact on my fellow academics. This climate of fear creates poor quality academic work which avoids all important controversial issues and debates. This appalling tradition of educational mediocrity starts at primary school and works its way right to the top of the educational system. Students are encouraged to learn subjects parrot-fashion and write descriptive, one-sided essays. Academics refuse to engage in any debate, do not read work by those who do not agree with them and regard any academic arguments as personal attacks.

Professor Amara Ponsapich and the Thai National Human Rights Commission have disgraced themselves by remaining silent on lese majeste. At the same time they have defended the “right” of fascist PAD members to cause a war with Cambodia. Recently Amara warned the pro-democracy Red Shirts not to cause “trouble” with their protests. No such warning was ever given to the royalist mobs. NGO senator Rosana Tositakul told Red Shirt MPs to stop whining about the 90 deaths last year and to concentrate on the problems of inflation. Amnesty International has followed in the same path by defending the use of lese majeste. Academic hold seminars about why the lese majeste law “needs to be reformed”. But it cannot be reformed. It has to be abolished.

The Thai Monarchy is said to be “universally loved by all Thais”. This may have been the case in some periods of history, but it is no longer true. Many millions have turned against the Monarchy for appearing to condone the 2006 military coup and for saying nothing about the 90 deaths last year. This openly expressed hatred of the Monarchy is despite the climate of fear created by the lese majeste law, along side a manic promotion of the Monarchy. The King is said to be a genius in all fields. All statements by the Monarch are repeated as though they are the ultimate wisdom and he is referred to as “our father”. Photographs are circulated to “prove” that the King actually tied his own shoe-laces!! Many have made comparisons with North Korea. Now they are comparing Thailand to the Middle-Eastern dictatorships. Recently the head of the army claimed that Thailand was “nothing like Egypt”. If he really believed that, then why did he bother to make the public statement in the first place?

Another example of “Monarchy Mania” is the idea of “Sufficiency Economics”. Once the Monarch gave his blessing to the “Sufficiency Economy”, we were all supposed to accept it and praise it without question. The Sufficiency Economy is really a reactionary political ideology that teaches people to be happy with their present circumstances and to ignore the need for income redistribution. Luckily, this aspect of brain-washing has not worked very well in Thai society, for a society which cannot openly discuss economic and political policies will remain backward and under-developed. But the mere criticism of the Sufficiency Economy is enough to attract charges of lese majeste.

What is the aim of all this attempt at enforced idiocy among the population? It is a continuous attempt to keep the vast majority of Thai people in their place. We are encouraged to believe that the King is all powerful, when in fact he is a spineless willing tool of the Military. The Thai population are encouraged to believe that we live under an “ancient system of Monarchy”, a cross between a Sakdina, Absolute and Constitutional Monarchy system. People have to crawl on the ground in front of the King. But the true beneficiaries of this are the Military, the civilian conservative bureaucrats and the Democrat Party who are now in government.

The Military often claim that they are the “defenders of the Constitutional Monarchy”, yet the Thai Military has a long history of making un-constitutional coups. These are often “legitimised” by claiming to protect the Monarchy. The 19th September 2006 coup is a good example. The Military sought to legitimise themselves by referring to the Monarch. The lese majeste Law is thus used as a tool by the military to defend coups. The promotion of an image that the Monarchy is all powerful (an un-constitutional image), is part of this self-legitimisation by the military and other forces who are now in government. Lese majeste cases have multiplied since the Democrats were manoeuvred into government by the army in December 2008. It is now a central weapon to be used against all those who criticised the 2006 coup or those who oppose this military-installed government.

It is now an undeniable fact that this brain-washing campaign is falling apart. And it is falling apart at the very moment when the King is getting old and may soon die because he is so frail. If the King were ever loved and respected, the same cannot be said about his son. We know from Wikileaks that even the elites think the prince is a liability. The Military, the right-wing PAD protestors who closed the airports and the Democrat Party, have dragged the Monarchy into politics by claiming that the 2006 coup and violent actions by the PAD were supported or even directed by the Monarchy. It is now common to hear ordinary Thais complain that “the iguana and his wife” ordered the May 2010 killings. Royal legitimacy is all that the conservative authoritarians have and they are panicking because it is all unravelling. They have brought this on themselves.

We must not forget the plight of those jailed and killed on the pretext of defending the Monarchy. We must wage an international and national political campaign to defend democratic rights in Thailand and for the abolition of the lese majeste law. Without abolishing this law, we cannot have democracy in Thailand and without overthrowing the dictatorship we cannot abolish lese majeste.

News on Red Eagle

29 08 2010

The following is a letter from Red Eagle or Tanyawut Taweewarodomkul. Tanyawut is in jail on charges related to the Computer Crimes Act and for online comments he is alleged to have made about the monarchy. The letter is to the girlfriend of a fellow inmate, arrested on charges of red shirt activism but since found guilty and released. The letter came to PPT via friends, one of whom visited the jail with the girlfriend. Ji Ungpakorn also has a version at his website, although our editing is just a little different.

Tanyawut is, as his letter says, on his own, and it is important that he receive support from within Thailand and internationally.


Sawasdee [name deleted]

I’ve heard your name for a long time from [name deleted].  I’ve seen him kiss your photo on many occasions. You keep up his spirits inside here… [identifiable material deleted].

My name is Tanyawut Taweewarodomkul or “Kenny” [Red Eagle]. I’ve been charged with the Computer Crimes law and lese majeste. I was jailed before [Conor Purcell] or Jeff [Savage] just after the big protest began. They accuse me of making a red shirt website which attacked the Monarchy [norporchorusa.com website]. I am fighting my case on my own. Those whom I thought would help me have done nothing and even my relatives don’t dare come to visit. I glad that [name deleted] has someone to visit and worry about him.

Sometimes it is hard to be a hero, especially when the Red team is always being wrongly accused and slandered and the referee is biased. Even the owner of the sports ground behaves as if nothing is happening. We can only help ourselves as best we can without much of an aim, waiting for the day when we can receive justice.

Thank you and your friends for helping us Red Shirts. Your friends may be foreigners, but they have more admirable spirit than many who are Thai.

Glad to know you


Zone 8

Updates on Da Torpedo and Red Eagle

11 08 2010

Prachatai has an account of recent events concerning Darunee Charnchoensilpakul’s bail request and the trial of the webmaster of the Norporchor USA website,  Tanthawut Thaweewarodomkul.

The updates are pretty much as expected. The Appeals Court has rejected  Darunee’s bail application “for fear that she might flee.” Tanthawut’s trial has been scheduled for February 2011, the same month that Chiranuch Premchaiporn’s case is scheduled.

Tanthawut is charged as the webmaster of Norporchor (or UDD) USA and faces charges of lese majeste under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, and under the 2007 Computer Crime Act. He has denied the charges in court essentially meaning that he gets no bail. “The public prosecutor submitted to the court a list of 12 witnesses, while the defendant submitted a list of 6. Both prosecution and defence witnesses will testify from 4 – 11 February 2011.” He was arrested by police on 1 April 2010 at his apartment in Bang Kapi, Bangkok. His computers and other belongings were seized.

On 29 July, Darunee “requested the court to release her temporarily to receive proper medical treatment for her molar problems. She claimed that her illness was so serious that she needed an operation in a well-equipped hospital, with a couple of years for recovery. She also argued that Sondhi Limthongkul, a PAD leader accused of the same crime, has always been granted bail until now.” Naturally, Sondhi, being a yellow-shirt gets different treatment. Her request was rejected a few days later, “citing the fact that her case carried a severe punishment and her crime was against the revered and venerated monarchy, affecting widely the feelings of loyal people. Because of her sentence of 18 years’ imprisonment, the court did not believe that she would not flee.” But Sondhi…. forget it!

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