Updated: A blue blood intervention on lese majeste

12 01 2012

The battle over lese majeste has seen ultra-royalists, the military leadership and pretty much every politician in leadership positions in all parties opposing change on lese majeste. Indeed, it was only a few days ago that former 2006 coup leader and junta boss General Sonthi Boonyaratglin who now heads up the insignificant Matuphum Party got leaders and representatives of nine political partiesĀ  to agree that the lese majeste law could not possibly be amended.

What will they do now that a bunch of blue bloods have come out to urge that the Yingluck Shinawatra government amend the lese majeste law?

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that 8 “people with royal lineage” have signed a letter which they sent to the premier “asking the government to change the law. They are MR Sai Svasti Svasti, MR Saisingh Siributr, MR Narisa Chakrabongse, Vara-Poj Snidvongs na Ayudhya [former ambassador to Italy], Gen MR Krit Kritakara, MR Powari Suchiva (Rajani), MR Opas Kanchawichai and Sumet Jumsai na Ayudhya.” PPT added what we hope are correct links.

The letter complained that the number of lese majeste cases had increased substantially in recent years, although for some unknown reason, there data points are 2002 and 2009. In fact, the huge spike in lese majeste cases came after the 2006 coup and under the royalist, Democrat Party-led coalition led by Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The scribes complain that these cases have “been reported around the world and resulted in increasingly intense attacks on the institution of the monarchy…”.

To support their claim for amendment, the group “cited … King Bhumibol’s address on Dec 4, 2005 in which he said putting people who criticised the monarchy in jail only caused trouble to him.” They lament that no government has “improved” the law.They do not specify how it might be “improved.”

PPT can only find this version of the speech at present, and we challenge readers to make sense of it. Yes, the king talks about being wrong, needing to be criticicized and how he is troubled when people (foreigners?) go to jail for insulting him because he gets representations on it and Thailand is ridiculed. But the speech is essentially a criticism of Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai Party following the 2005 election landslide.

Sumet says: “Most important of all, our group wants to draw attention to the fact that His Majesty himself has criticised the law…”. It is added that it is “the government’s duty to protect the institution and, in this instance, heed the King’s concerns.”

PPT doesn’t know much about any of these minor royals, although we did once comment on Sumet’s somewhat liberal attitude on republicanism and updating the monarchy. We have no idea if they have links to the palace and whether there views are representative of a broader royal view. Even so, that a coterie of the high and mighty see lese majeste as a negative for the monarchy is likely a significant intervention.

Update: Soon after the royals called for reform, The Nation reported yet another yellow-shirt group has been formed to “protect the monarchy.” Unsurprisingly, it comes from the died-in-the-wool royalist National Institute of Development Administration. There, Banjerd Singkaneti, dean of the Law School, “more than 20 academics from five universities have formed a group called ‘Sayam Prachapiwat’ (Siamese People’s Great Development).” The group is to be officially launched today at NIDA.

Kind of like the People’s Alliance for Democracy, “Banjerd said the group’s academic were concerned about the ongoing ‘monopoly of Thai politics’ by a group of capitalists and politicians, as well as ‘the crisis of freedom and ethics’.”

Fancy that, politics being dominated by politicians. That aside, Banjerd seems to say absolutely nothing about the repeated election victories and even landslides of recent years. Like PAD, Banjerd probably dismisses electoral politics as a sham dominated by the ignorant.

This is confirmed when Banjerd says:

Our views are based on the principle that the Thai society’s values must not be copied from the West. Our society respects the monarchy and this value is an important principle in Thai society….

That is how to deny electoral democracy. Of course, Banjerd’s group is also established to oppose Nitirat.