Boycotting feudal royals

14 01 2022

A couple of days ago, Prachatai reported that the Chiang Mai University Student Union had announced “that its representatives will not receive members of the royal family at the university’s graduation ceremonies during the current committee’s term in order to uphold equality.”

The graduation ceremony for the classes of 2019 and 2020, which was held on Friday 14 January 2022, presided over by Princess Sirindhorn, usually framed as the most popular among the odd family of royals.

The report explains the ceremonies:

Thai graduation ceremonies are often long, complicated, and strictly regulated as they are presided over by a member of the royal family. Student representatives at many universities are required to wait to receive the member of the royal family arriving to preside over the ceremony. Universities also impose strict dress codes on graduates, specifying even hair colour and nail polish colour, while many transgender students face obstacles in getting permission from university administrations to dress according to their gender identity. Attending the ceremony also costs graduates and their families a large sum of money, including the cost of the graduation gown, hiring a photographer, and travel costs for those who live in distant provinces.

The Student Union explained that it would:

not send representatives to receive Princess Sirindhorn as she arrives for the ceremony, and that it will not receive any member of the royal family at any graduation ceremony which takes place during the current committee’s term, as receiving members of the royal family would show support for “feudalism” [sakdina] and because they see the reception ceremony as a form of oppression and inequality. It also calls on other faculty unions to boycott the reception ceremony.

The union viewed “the ceremony as oppressive, outdated, and a way of normalizing inequality. Boycotting the ceremony would therefore be a way of upholding equality and human rights.”

Along with the 2020 – 2021 pro-democracy/monarchy reform protests, “graduation ceremonies have become a platform for young people to express their discontent at the status quo. Many graduates see boycotting the ceremonies as an act of civil disobedience, while activists are reported to have staged small activities at their universities’ graduation events.”

At a Khon Kaen University graduation on 13 December 2021, students and graduates hung banners reading “Free our friends” and “Repeal Section 112. ” They gave speeches “criticizing the university and its Faculty of Law for not taking action when its students were detained on political charges.” Student activist Sarayut Narkmanee:

gave a speech saying that for the 2021 ceremony, which was presided over by Princess Sirindhorn, the university designated a wider than usual area as royal space, which pushed people off campus. He also said that students don’t graduate because they are handed a degree, that graduation should be for the people, and a graduation gown is created by the authorities and so is not necessary. He then burned a graduation gown in an act of protest.

At the Chiang Mai event, “two student activists were arrested … [on] 14 January … while holding banners near the Chiang Mai University … auditorium calling for graduates to boycott the graduation ceremony … and for the repeal of Section 112.”:

CMU student activist Yotsunthon Ruttapradid and Phimchanok Jaihong, member of the activist group Thalufah, were arrested this morning (14 January) by plainclothes and uniformed police officers while standing on the foothpath opposite the university auditorium, where a graduation ceremony was being held. They were reported to be holding banners saying “Repeal Section 112” and “Feudal degrees” in a campaign for the repeal of the royal defamation law and to call on graduates to boycott the ceremony, presided over by Princess Sirindhorn, the King’s younger sister….

The activists were charged with creating a noise without a reasonable cause and refusing to comply with an official’s order. They received a 1500 baht fine and were released. Officers reportedly said that they were able to charge the activists with causing noise while on campus because the campus was considered royal space during the ceremony.

Social media reports that only about 40% of graduates showed up for the royal ceremony.

Lese majeste and the “new” measures

20 01 2010

Frank G. Anderson at UPI (19 January 2010) writes about Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s new Advisory Committee on National Security Cases Involving the Monarchy.

The new head of this body, Kittipong Kittayarak, who is permanent secretary of the Ministry of Justice, is “perceived as having the objective of ensuring justice in the investigation and prosecution of the lèse majesté cases that have been plaguing the kingdom over the last few years.”

While some hope that the new committee will sort out the mess created by the government’s political use of lese majeste, Anderson points out that “Kittipong seems not to have been chosen for his compassion or his embarrassment over injustice meted out to the undeserving as much as for his status-quo leanings.”

Anderson observes that with “near-unanimous consensus [sic.] that the monarchy is to be regarded as sacred – and indeed this is enshrined in the national charter – it is not logical to expect that the new advisory council will proceed to free what are essentially political prisoners.” He adds that “it is unlikely that anyone will be released or that major changes in the judicial process will be enacted.” Anderson says that because Kittipong “has established a public record of supporting the 1997 Thai Constitution” that there is some hope.

For PPT, the problem is that many who supported the 1997 charter were equally pleased to see it trashed by the military-palace coup in 2006 and supported the writing of the military’s 2007 Constitution. Here think, as examples, Chirmsak Pinthong, Borwornsak Uwanno, and so on. Anderson thinks reform will be limited, preserving “traditional ‘sakdina’ values to preserve national security.”

PPT thinks that another factor at work is Abhisit’s duplicitous approach to controversial issues. His statements can’t be trusted and no one should be fooled into thinking that he has a “liberal” political streak. Each time he speaks in public, especially to foreigners, he presents his “liberal face”. However, when one looks at the actions of his government, it is anything but politically liberal, especially on censorship, lese majeste and the monarchy as a national security issue.

Just two examples of this two-faces approach is seen in reports today on the print media and controlling the internet.

The first story is in the Bangkok Post (20 January 2010), where it seems likely that the usual political double standards are at work as the “Culture Minister Teera Slukpetch, a Democrat, said yesterday that Wilawan Sapphansaen, the director of the NLO, reported the office had lodged a complaint with the Crime Suppression Division on Thursday against Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, publisher and editor of Thai Red News, for publishing and distributing the newspaper without registering it as required under Section 11 of the 2007 Publishing Registration Act.” The NLO is the usually quiet National Library Office that has now “filed a formal police complaint against the editor of Thai Red News weekly newspaper, accusing the owners of failing to register the pro-Thaksin publication.”

Somyos “said that the legal action against the newspaper was politically motivated…. The government just wants to silence the red shirt members…”. He added that there “are hundreds of magazines and newspapers which have violated the publishing act. If the government closes our paper, others have to be closed too…”.

PPT agrees with Somyos’s assessment; this is another politically motivated action that will be dressed up as “rule of [by] law.”

The second story is also in the Post and refers to the need for vastly increased technical capacity to deal with cybercrime.

What’s the first example (no prizes for a correct guess). Yes, alleged crimes against the monarchy: “Asanee Kawtrakul, Deputy Executive Director at the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (Nectec), said in the past year in Thailand, there have been many big cases related to computer crimes, especially the posting of false information about His Majesty the King’s health which caused damage to national security and alarmed the public, causing the stock market to plunge during trading at that time.”

What is worse is that the government is successfully recruiting research agencies and universities to its cyber-censoring mission: “Concerns over cyber crimes have led government agencies, research agencies and educational institutions to join hands in building digital forensic resources in Thailand, as well as boosting research and confidence in electronic transactions through strengthening cyber security.”

As we said a couple of days ago, Orwell is resurrected in Thailand. More importantly, there needs to be serious scrutiny of Abhisit as the two-faced presentation on these matters. He continually misleads and lies on these matters. Watch his actions and forget what he says.

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