Updated: Real news and rumors

29 01 2021

There were lots of royal rumors being shot around over the past weeks or so. Some of them refer to allegations of unspeakable acts against Sirindhorn by her brother, King Vajiralongkorn. Since she was reported as breaking both ankles in a “fall,” rumors gripped social media until they finally became “fact” through international reporting.

We can’t say if this rumor has any truth to it. And, we wouldn’t imagine that we would ever know. Not only is the palace notoriously opaque, but fear is likely to be at play if there is any truth there somewhere.

What we do know is is that the notion of stumbling and breaking both ankles is odd, and the palace gave no explanation of what happened to her. Nor did it say much after Sirindhorn had surgery. That said, she is getting on in years, has long been overweight, and was recently seen riding about official functions on an electric mobility scooter. So it might be that she has brittle bones. But who knows?

If the palace doesn’t say anything or give any depth to its reporting, then it can only blame itself when rumors go viral. But the international media should ask itself if reporting rumor is warranted.

Another story that did the rounds which, so far, is untrue, has been widely reported by tabloids internationally. The Daily Mail reported in one of its paragraph-length headlines: “Thai king ‘makes his consort his second queen as her birthday gift’ in historic move…“. Likewise, The Sun had a similar story, reporting this “fact.” Both “stories” were false and based on rumor.

On-again-off-again favorite consort Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi was not made second queen on her birthday. She did appear with the king in cheeky matching outfits to do the usual birthday stuff, releasing captive animals and so on. But no promotion.

At least, that’s how we understand it because such promotions are always made royal announcements. We suppose one could come out later and be backdated, but nothing emerged.

So why is the salacious part of the international media making rumor fact? And why do this when there are some juicy tidbits that have been officially announced.

We refer to the announcement on 27 January that the king had promoted both his next favorite consort and another one to higher military positions. The announcement was that Sutthatphakdi Borirakphuminth (สุทัตตาภักดิ์ บริรักษ์ภูมินทร์) was made a major-general and the more minor consort was promoted to colonel. Not much is known about Sutthatphakdi but BBC Thai has done the journalistic work and discovered all of the announcements about her over the years she seems to have been in the king’s inner circle.

This recent announcement suggests that Vajiralongkorn is unchanged by all the calls for reform and is continuing on with his neo-absolutist agenda. Maybe the media should be reporting on that and on the news that is real and confirmed about the king and his queens, consorts and wives. There’s enough material around to show that the king is an erratic, vengeful, and nasty person, unfit for any office.

Update: For a “story” that does get Sineenat’s non-promotion right, look at the South China Morning Post. However, the SCMP still feels the need to concoct a “story.” In this it is a “what if” line that is taken, with a claim that has PPT stumped: “Less than two years after her sudden pardon, the former military pilot may be named as King Rama X’s second queen according to unconfirmed reports – will Sineenat emerge as a style icon like Queen Sirikit, or a humanitarian beacon like Princess Soamsawali?” Well, it is less than a year since she was “pardoned,” but the notion that the portulent Soamsawali was a “humanitarian beacon” is quite baffling. How do they come up with this stuff?





Vajiralongkorn takes another wife

2 05 2019

Barely mentioned in the mainstream media before today, King Vajiralongkorn has taken Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhya as his fourth official wife and new queen.

Reports now mention her as General Suthida, a rank given to her by Vajiralongkorn about the time he became king. He has given military rank to several wives and consorts in the past.

The Post states:

Since the marriage took place in line with the law and royal traditions, Queen Suthida is henceforth entitled to all the benefits of royal rank and status of the royal family, according to an announcement dated Wednesday and published in the Royal Gazette.

The fourth official wife Vajiralongkorn has had, the ceremony saw the officials register the marriage, witnessed by Princess Sirindhorn and Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda.

The king has several consorts and has been seen with them in Germany. He was also seen in the infamous crop-top/fake tattoo photos with her.

Previous reporting on the 40 year-old Suthida has tended to coincide with her official promotions.

One event, in 2017, saw her awarded one of the highest royal decorations as commander in King Vajiralongkorn’s guard. Essentially, this made Suthida the “de facto head of security for … the King. Although she formally holds the title of deputy commander of the royal guard corps, the top rank had been left vacant since December 2016.” It was said Suthida had been serving in the royal guards since 2013.

The relationship between Vajiralongkorn and Suthida goes back several years.

In 2017, BBC Thai had a useful account of Suthida’s rise, beginning from 2012 and listing the many promotions and awards that have been showered on her by the prince-now-king, with each event is linked to the Royal Gazette.

Given her long relationship with Vajiralongkorn, we guess she knows what she’s getting into. His three previous marriages all ended in bitterness and some of them in terror.

As crown prince, Vajiralongkorn’s first official marriage was in early 1977 to his first cousin on Queen Sirikit’s side, Soamsawali.

It was an unhappy marriage.

The relationship had ended long after the prince abandoned Soamsawali, when she was pregnant, for the woman who would become his second official wife, Yuvadhida Polpraserth.

Soamsawali was protected by her family position after the divorce in 1991. She remained a member of the royal family as the mother of a royal grandchild.

Prince, and kids in earlier times

Yuvadhida was an actress from low-budget films that some saw as soft porn. Her official marriage to Vajiralongkorn in 1994 was only announced to the public a while after it took place. This was because the prince’s philandering was viewed dimly by the public.

Yuvadhida produced sons and a daughter. Within a couple of years, however, the family was thrown out of Thailand in a fit of princely rage over what might have involved allegations of her infidelity.

Only the daughter, now Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, returned to live with Vajiralongkorn, with the sons and their mother living in the U.S.A.

Meanwhile, the prince had already taken up with Srirasmi, made infamous by the leaked nude birthday party video.

She produced a son who is considered heir apparent, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti.

Srirasmi’s ousting from the palace when the prince tired of her was nasty and vicious.

It seems she remains in Thailand but is in imposed seclusion and several members of her family have served jail terms.

Given the turmoil of the past, the new marriage will be watched with considerable interest, although reporting on it will not be possible in Thailand.





Judiciary hopeless on royals

2 01 2019

Prachatai reports on a lese majeste case that began life in 2012 and where a final decision has been handed down by the Supreme Court.

It was claimed that on 26 October 2012 Anan (family name withheld), now aged 70, defamed Princess Sirindhorn and Princess Soamsawali in Pathum Thani Province. He was eventually charged under Article 112. The defendant denied the accusations.

When the accusation was investigated in 2012, no charge was filed. However, following the 2014 coup, prosecutors were ordered to trawl over previous 112 cases, and Anan’s was taken to court after a “committee of the Royal Thai Police ordered that the case be prosecuted and the officer who did not file charges be subject to disciplinary punishment.”

The first verdict was given on 29 September 2016. It was complicated. The court found Anan committed the acts he was prosecuted for. However, the court, having advice from the Royal Household Bureau, ruled that Article 112 did not cover Sirindhorn and Soamsawali.

Thus, unable to convict Anan under the lese majeste verdict, the court itself cobbled together a conviction, reasoning that the defendant defamed Sirindhorn and Soamsawali. Despite the fact that neither of the two royals had lodged a defamation complaint, the court “found the defendant guilty of violating of Article 326 of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to 1 year in prison for each offence, totalling 2 years.”

In other words, Anan was convicted of a crime for which he had not been charged, which had not been investigated and for which he was not tried.

An Appeals Court considered Anan’s appeal and issued its verdict on 20 May 2017. The article doesn’t clearly state the outcome but it appears that it found for the defendant, presumably leading to a prosecution appeal to the Supreme Court.

On 27 December 2018, the Thanyaburi Provincial Court read the Supreme Court’s verdict. It “found Anan guilty on 2 charges of personal defamation, and sentenced him to 1 year in prison for each offence, suspended for 3 years, and a fine of 20,000 baht for each offence.”

Defense lawyer Thitiphong Sisaen made the following observations:

1) The Supreme Court has set a standard for defamation cases (Article 326). Even if the victim does not file a complaint, if there is an investigation into the offence, the prosecutor may file a lawsuit….

2) The Supreme Court referred to the 2017 Constitution as the criterion for the legitimacy of the investigation (the state has the duty to protect and preserve the monarchy and national security), but this case occurred in 2012 and the charges were filed in 2015. This means the Supreme Court has set down a new legal principle, stating that laws are effective retrospectively in order to punish the accused.

When it comes to royals, the judiciary is simply hopeless, makes stuff up and promotes injustice.





Further updated: Unsubstantiated rumors and speculation

13 10 2016

Because the palace provides little information, there is considerable speculation about the king’s dying days.

Social media has some pretty long and involved discussions of what’s happening and what will happen.

Much of this is highly speculative. For example, there social media speculation that the prince returning to Thailand by a TG flight is seen as significant of something by some, such as control by the military junta. Some see his return as evidence that there will be no intervention in succession. We will soon know if any of this speculation and guessing is worth the huge efforts that go into it.

One current social media rumor is that the “old brass” from the Privy Council is currently meeting with the junta’s “new brass.” This seems  reasonable speculation and we’d guess that such a meeting would not be the first. If there is going to be any interference in succession, these are the main players but there’s no recent and compelling evidence to suggest that there will be such an intervention, but the junta’s Thailand is highly secretive and that needs to be kept in mind.

Reports from Thailand suggest that there is a calm “waiting” going on. That said, we can expect considerable grieving when it is announced that the king has died.set-index

Update 1: Here is another claim that needs to be considered carefully before believing it. And we mean the one by the junta’s “Deputy junta head for the Economy” Somkid Jatusripitak, who declares that the “authorities are now hunting for people who are causing Thailand’s stock market to plummet rapidly.” Apparently now infected by junta-itis, which affects the brain, detaching it from reality, he says he “has ordered Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand (SEC) to find people who are spreading rumours causing rapid fall on the nation’s stock market…”.

It’s the Royal Household Bureau’s announcements and then the failure of the junta and palace to say anything about the way they are dealing with the king’s demise that are causing the drop.

Somkid “said that Thai people should not become victims of those who are spreading rumours for personal gains, adding that people should trust in the nation’s economic potential and follow news from the government sources only.” See what we mean? Only believe the military dictatorship!

Then, remarkably, he added to the rumors: “This country is now at a very important moment and things will gradually get better…”. So the king is dead or about to die, now confirmed by this statement.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports that Princesses Sirindhorn, Soamsawali, Chulabhorn and Prince Vajiralongkorn are again at Siriraj Hospital. We see no mention of the queen, who is also hospitalized.





Lese majeste as farce III

7 03 2015

A couple of days ago PPT noted that under the royalist military dictatorship, things monarchical are becoming madder by the minute. This comment was in relation to a General claiming a royal newsreader’s mistake could “lead to an overthrow of the regime of democracy with the King As Head of State or affects the national security, peace and order, and good morality of the people…”. Perhaps not a lese majeste case – at least not yet – but expressed in terms very LM-like, with national security proclaimed.

Recent events related to this ludicrous event reveal some more about lese majeste cases in Thailand.

Khaosod reports that the first wife divorced by Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn “has formally forgiven a state-owned TV station for misidentifying her during a news segment.”  That refers to Channel 3, which “is currently under investigation by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) for the error in confusing the pudgy Soamsawali with the estranged Srirasmi, recently thrown out of the prince’s household, with dozens of her family and associates now in jail.

Soamsawali has reportedly “dispatched a royal representative to Channel 3 headquarters to deliver a bouquet as a gesture of forgiveness and goodwill…”. The broadcaster stated that “Soamsawali accepted the station’s apology and did not hold any grudges over the matter.”

Even so, the “anchorwoman has been suspended for a month as punishment” by Channel 3.

So what does this tell us about Thailand and lese majeste?

First, it confirms that the country is in the hands of mad monarchists. To be sure, they use lese majeste for political purposes but they also use it to shore up a declining monarchy. Because the king hasn’t been seen for a considerable time and is rumored to be gravely ill and/or non compos mentis, the prince is preparing to take over, the military dictatorship has established a royalist dark age.

Second, it shows that royals, if they felt so inclined, could intervene and put an end to lese majeste cases. They don’t because they know the law suits their feudal desire for status and their capitalist desire for vast wealth.

 





Updated: Lese majeste as farce II

2 03 2015

Under the royalist military dictatorship, things monarchical just get madder by the minute.

Any reasonable person who heard a claim by a General that and event that could “lead to an overthrow of the regime of democracy with the King As Head of State or affects the national security, peace and order, and good morality of the people” might think that something significant had taken place. But not in the land of monstrously mad monarchists.

Khaosod reports that Lt. Gen Peerapong Manakit, a member of the regulatory National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) has declared that the Commission has “launched an investigation into a state-owned TV station after one of its anchors misidentified a member of the Royal Thai Family in a news program.”

Obviously a heinous crime has been committed. Anyone who views the nightly royal propaganda that is broadcast knows that newsreaders regularly stumble over the faux ancient names and titles given to themselves by the royals. The ridiculousness of reporting the daily visits by well-fed  royals is a ritual demanded by the palace and state.

PPT is always surprised how straight-faced the announcers are as this parade of odd looking curiosities takes place. Yet we know the smallest stumbles and mistakes get the newsreaders into hot water.

Soam and OThe General claims that “the incident took place this morning when a Channel 3 anchorwoman ‘incorrectly stating the royal name and rank’ of Princess Soamsawali, former wife of Thai Crown Prince, in a news report about Her Royal Highness’ trip to a temple.” As the report helpfully points out, “Princess Soamsawali was married to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn in 1977. The couple divorced in 1991.”

Soamsawali was wife no. 1, and is the prince’s first cousin. Since then he’s had two other official wives, both now kicked out and both disgraced by the prince with charges and attacks. One (Yuvadhida Polpraserth) is in exile and the other languishes in virtual house arrest as her family and associates have all been jailed (Srirasmi). We imagine that burying and disgracing a blood relative was not possible following Soamsawali’s divorce from the prince.

It is Peerapong who claims that this “mistake constitutes a violation of the 2008 Thai Public Broadcasting Service Act, which forbids airing content that could ‘lead to an overthrow of the regime of democracy with the King As Head of State or affects the national security, peace and order, and good morality of the people’.”

The report claims that “[r]epresentatives of Channel 3 have been summoned to give testimony to the NBTC ‘urgently’…”, with the General stating that “punishment will be decided after the commission listens to Channel 3’s side of the story.” He referred to the Channel 3 “side of the story” as “testimony in our deliberation of punishment.”

As usual, guilt in royal matters is assumed.

So heinous is this “crime” in the land of royal make-believe that the “general also asked media agencies not to publish details about Channel 3’s alleged wrongdoing, or else they will be liable for prosecution as well.”

We imagine, based on the befuddling use of the lese majeste law of late, that the military dictatorship may make this event another case.

Given that the king and queen are no longer visible, we can assume that the regime of lese majeste lunacy is a symbol of the forthcoming reign under military dictatorship.

Update: Prachatai reports that the news anchor read the formal name and title of Srirasmi Suwadee, the third former wife of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn “who was recently demoted to commoner, instead of Princess Soamsawali’s name.” Given the purge of Srirasmi’s family and the attempt to expunge her prior to succession and the prince’s fourth official marriage, the thundering, huffing and puffing and threats and general ridiculousness is both a sign of the future and an indicator of the depths of feudal decay that Thailand has been dragged by mad monarchists, the military and the palace.





Updated: Family affairs I

29 11 2014

A few days ago PPT posted on Thailand’s big but still murky story. The case involving senior police, including an uncle of Srirasmi (Srirasm) Akharapongpreecha, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s then official consort, has widened.

Prachatai reports that:

Three brothers and two more people connected to a network of high ranking police officers charged with lèse majesté are accused of defaming the monarchy, illegal possession of weapons, robbery, and holding others for ransom. A total of seven people involved in this case have now been charged with lèse majesté.vajiralonkgkor_srirasami

The investigators on 28 November detained three siblings, Natthapol, Sitthisak, and Narong Akharapongpreecha, and Sutthisak Sutthijit and Chakan Phakphum, who are allegedly criminally associated with Pol Lt Gen Pongpat Chayapan.

The five suspects are charged with defaming the monarchy, carrying weapons in public, possessing unlicensed weapons, robbery, and unlawful detention. All of them pleaded guilty to all charges.

According the ASTV-Manager, Pol Maj Gen Sriwara Rangsiphrammanakul, commander of the Metropolitan Police stated at the press briefing that three of the five, Natthapol, Narong, and Chakan also have also been charged with extortion, unlawful detention, and robbery by Phrakhanong Police Station and Wat Phraya Krai Police Station.

The report doesn’t state the obvious, but these three brothers have the same family name as the prince’s consort. Clearly, the Akharapongpreecha family is in deep trouble. Some say that the clean-out is part of the succession struggle. Others say it is about bringing down Srirasmi’s “network.”

Whatever is really happening, something significant is happening in and around Vajiralongkorn’s family. Of course, he is seldom around, spending most of his time overseas, mostly in Germany, and it might be suggested that he may not have been aware of the PrinceAkharapongpreecha family amassing huge stores of ill-gotten gains. That would seem highly improbable. More likely is that this is a messy separation with a fight over custody and wealth.

We are guessing, like everyone else, but these events do have some resonances with the prince’s previous separation from earlier wives, all of which have seen murky and often nasty events play out.

In the 1980s, his separation from cousin Soamsawali for Yuvadhida Polpraserth saw an anti-royal leaflet campaign. As one of our posted documents states (Updated link: clicking downloads a PDF that is probably illegal in Thailand):

Prince, and kids in earlier times

Prince, and kids in earlier times

… a stunning series of leaflets attacking the monarchy right at the height of the King’s birthday celebrations [were released]. Emerging from the shadows of gossip and hearsay, the pamphlets were suddenly everywhere. The military and police found it necessary to interrupt normal radio and television programming just three days after the King’s birthday to denounce the anonymous authors as ‘… enemies of the nation … bent on undermining the monarchy’ (Far Eastern Economic Review, 24 December 1987). The military and police claimed that the offending literature was from ‘a group of the Kingdom’s enemies’ (Bangkok Post, 9 December 1987); not just of the monarchy, it should be noted, but the whole country.

What was expressed in these leaflets to provoke such an extraordinary response? A brief excerpt from one of the offending leaflets will provide the flavour: ‘Sia O is totally besotted by Nang Yu [Yuvadhida]. So much so that he would willingly sniff her feet, or any other part of her body for that matter, since there is nothing he would not do for her.’

 When the prince got sick of her and wanted Srirasmi, the ditching of Yuvadhida was public and nasty. As one website has it:

When Vajiralongkorn was introduced to Yuvadhida Polpraserth, she was an aspiring actress. She became his steady companion and gave birth to his first son, Prince Juthavachara Mahidol, on 29 August 1979. He later had three more sons and a daughter by her. They were married at a palace ceremony in February 1994, where they were blessed by the King and the Princess Mother, but not by the Queen. After the marriage, she was allowed to change her name to Mom Sujarinee Mahidol na Ayudhaya, signifying she was a commoner married to a royal. She was also commissioned as a major in the Royal Thai Army and took part in royal ceremonies with Vajiralongkorn. When she fled to Britain in 1996 with their children, Vajiralongkorn had posters placed around his palace accusing her of committing adultery with Anand Rotsamkhan, a 60-year-old air marshal. The prince abducted their daughter and brought her back to Thailand to live with him. She was later elevated to the rank of princess, whilst Sujarinee and her sons were stripped of their diplomatic passports and titles. She and her sons later moved to the United States. As of 2007, Sujarinee is known as Sujarinee Vivacharawongse.

There’s more here. The “problem” of Yuvathida and her sons was mentioned in Wikileaks and is also mentioned at New Mandala.

With this history, thinking that the prince might be sorting out his family affairs might be a reasonable guess. The prince has seldom sorted these things out quietly in the past.

We also have to wonder about the treasure trove allegedly unearthed by the police. Was this all stored for illicit wealth in the future? Or was it a collection?





Wikileaks: U.S. Ambassador Boyce offers lese majeste advice

3 09 2011

The latest release of cables from Wikileaks has a remarkable piece of “advice” from then U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce on how to deal with lese majeste charges against a U.S. citizen, based on a Swiss experience. The “Swiss experience” relates to the case of Oliver Jufer and embassies in Bangkok, Amnesty International and those who speak for them on blogs, tend to argue that quiet diplomacy and “working quietly behind the scenes”  carries the day when dealing with lese majeste.

Jufer (From The Telegraph)

For a refresher on Jufer’s case back in 2006-07, see these links: BBC1 (an excellent account by Jonathan Head), BBC2, Save a Life, and see the set of links at New Mandala. Jufer was arrested by 7 December 2006 (Below, Boyce says 5 December).

In Head’s report, there is this: “We had heard he was indignant when first arrested. He had planned to plead not guilty. But he has clearly been advised since, perhaps by his lawyer, or the Swiss Embassy, to change his tune.” He had already spent 3 months in prison awaiting trial. Several of the reports note the politicization of lese majeste by the military junta that came to power through the royalist coup of 2006. This is one example:

After Jufer was arrested, Gen Saprang Kanlayanamitr, deputy secretary-general of the Council for National Security, as the junta styles itself, said: “The suspect must have been hired by someone so I have ordered soldiers to investigate the incident and bring the mastermind of this crime to justice.” Nonetheless, Thai media have barely covered the case after police urged local journalists not to report it.

That statement by Saprang is reflective of the idiocy surrounding Thaksin Shinawatra and lese majeste following the coup, with Saprang suggesting that Jufer was put up to the act by the regime’s political opponents.

Jufer was sentenced to 20 years, reduced to 10 year because he was persuaded to change his plea to guilty. That guilty plea meant that no evidence was heard in the court.

Boyce

U.S. Ambassador Boyce, who has shown himself pro-coup and pro-junta in other cables, offers advice to the State Department. His cable begins with a reference to the “recent arrest and subsequent pardon of a Swiss national accused of offending Thailand’s revered King Bhumipol Adulyadej…”. It is as if this is all that matters. Jufer was arrested somewhere around 6 December 2006 and wasn’t pardoned and deported until 12 April 2007, meaning that he spent more than 4 months in prison for a drunken defacing of a few of the thousands of monarchy propaganda posters that are required around the time of the king’s birthday and that often stay up all year these days.

Boyce goes into the usual royalist spin about the monarch being revered and wielding “great moral authority” as if Boyce hadn’t been following the events of the past years and sending cables supportive of the palace’s politics during that time.

He then claims that this case “provided a rare window into the reaction of the palace to incidents of lese majeste” and adds that:

Swiss officials in Thailand believe their restrained response to the arrest, in spite of their public’s demand for strong action, contributed to the sooner-than-expected release of their citizen.

Boyce states that Jufer was:

sentenced to ten years imprisonment [PPT: in fact, it was 20 years, reduced for pleading guilty] after being convicted on lese majeste charges.” He “spraying black paint over five outdoor posters of King Bhumipol Adulyadej on December 5, 2006 (the King’s birthday) in the northern city of Chiang Mai. Jufer admitted to being drunk at the time and was reportedly angry that new laws limiting the times when alcohol can be sold prevented him from buying beer.

Boyce then makes some outlandish claims:

Sentences for lese majeste are typically hortatory in nature and offenders are normally pardoned by the king. Nevertheless, as evidenced by the recent ban of the popular web site YouTube (see reftel), the overwhelming popularity of the Thai sovereign compels the authorities to act should someone publicly slight the King or his family.

All that he state here is nonsense and it is clear that Boyce is making a series of royalist claims that are close to his heart. First, it is the law that is “hortatory,” not the sentences. Indeed, as several of the newspaper accounts cited above make very clear, there was precious little media coverage in Thailand and attempts to limit international coverage. It is the law itself that demands self-censorship and the repression of views that are not the same as those of royalists.  Second, the claim that the king is so widely adored that any “slight” against the king demands that the government acts puts him in la-la land. Boyce diverts attention from what PPT calls lese majeste repression and ignores long suppressed anti-monarchy sentiments that were widespread following the coup.

According to Swiss Embassy Minister Jacques Lauer, who helped coordinate the Swiss response to Jufer’s arrest, the Swiss government was surprised by how rapidly the King pardoned Jufer — a mere 13 days following his conviction and before Jufer had even filed an appeal or requested a royal pardon. Lauer indicated they had expected the King would follow tradition and wait until his 80th birthday, eight months later, to pardon Jufer and others accused of lese majeste. Lauer noted that Thai prison officials provided Swiss consular officials full access to Jufer.

PPT is unsure of the notion of “tradition” in sentencing and pardoning. A previous know case cited at Wikipedia says this:

Frenchman Lech Tomasz Kisielewicz allegedly committed lèse majesté in 1995 by making a derogatory remark about a Thai princess while on board a Thai Airways flight. Although in international airspace at the time, he was taken into custody upon landing in Bangkok and charged with offending the monarchy. He was detained for two weeks, released on bail, and acquitted after writing a letter of apology to the king, and deported.

It would seem that the “tradition” was not a tradition and depended on circumstances and whim. Kisielewicz was a relatively wealthy businessman with international connections and had refused to obey the instructions of an airline hostess who demanded he turn off his reading light that was said to have “inconvenienced” Princess Soamsawali, sitting in front of him. He was said to uttered derogatory remarks. In fact, Soamsawali is not covered by Article 112 but this case shows the illegality involved in the use of the law.

With no detail, background or previous experience cited, Boyce believes the Swiss got it right:

Minister Lauer credited Jufer’s speedy pardon to a Swiss decision to not antagonize Thai officials by making public comments, an action that may have provoked a backlash due to the public adoration of the King. Lauer claimed that intense international media attention and the public clamor in Switzerland for Jufer’s release made it difficult to balance the need to avoid offending their Thai interlocutors while appearing proactive in the eyes of the Swiss public. While historically relatively few foreigners have been accused of lese majeste, Lauer cautioned that should an AmCit be detained for lese majeste charges, any public criticism or appeals by USG officials would be tantamount to “throwing oil on the fire”.

There’s no evidence for this claim except the feeling espoused by an official who was criticized for his lack of action on the Jufer case. There is no contrary evidence because no embassy has been willing to take a public stand and criticize the Thai law and its use. Backbone has been lacking and still is. In addition, the U.S. relationship with Thailand is quite different from that between Switzerland and Thailand. Boyce concludes:

If an AmCit were to be charged with lese majeste, it is likely that a low key approach outside the public eye would stand the best chance of success in getting him or her out of custody and out of Thailand.

That seems to be the current line taken by the Embassy and State Department in dealing with the truly testing case of Joe Gordon, charged with offenses allegedly committed on U.S. soil.

Nicolaides

It might be noted that another embassy that seems to have followed the “don’t rock the boat” strategy is the Australian Embassy during the imprisonment of Australian citizen Harry Nicolaides. In this case, the Harry’s family complained about the Australian government’s approach and his lawyer became outspoken. As pointed out in our page on Nicolaides, while he mouthed appreciation for the efforts of governments, he seemed more concerned to thank the media and people in Australia for keeping the pressure on and support up. The Australian government appears to have believed that a guilty plea and conviction would result in a quick pardon and deportation. It took a month, meaning that Harry was in jail from 2 September 2008 to 20 February 2009. His return to Australia is chronicled here.

In his concluding comment, Boyce writes about the “King’s preexisting public statement that he will pardon anyone convicted of lese majeste…”. Of course, it is not as simple as Boyce’s propaganda-like statement makes out. If a guilty plea isn’t entered, getting a pardon seems not to be in the equation, unless it is a part of general sentence reductions and releases associated with the king’s birthday.

Boyce then really gets out on a thin limb by claiming that the “sooner-than-expected release of Jufer seem to indicate that the palace is uncomfortable with the strict application of lese majeste laws.” He adds that:

palace officials seem reluctant to let lese majeste be used as a tool to punish those who are accused of defaming the monarch. The palace appears quite sensitive to the possibility that lese majeste could be abused by non-palace actors to achieve their own ends.

They might be but these officials have since seemed all too eager to allow its political allies to use Article 112 for political purposes, most notably against red shirts. In fact, as the Anthony Chai case makes clear, palace officials are intimately involved in lese majeste cases.

The Wikileaks cables suggest that, by this point in his career as U.S. Ambassador, Boyce was doing little more than cheering for junta and monarchy. If his partisan advice now drives U.S. policy on lese majeste, then U.S. citizens can expect little support if they are caught up with  draconian lese majeste repression.