Updated: The impacts of lese majeste

25 11 2017

Somehow we missed an article by journalist Delphine Thouvenot who writes for AFP. “Trading Softly in Thailand” is interesting because it is an attempt to cut through the palace propaganda and show the impacts of the lese majeste law. It is worth reading in full, but here are some interesting bits:

In many ways, I should have been moved when some 300,000 people poured out on the streets of Bangkok in October for the days-long funeral of Thailand’s late King Bhumibol….

But as a foreign journalist, I was well aware of the other side of the monarchy, which is protected by one of the strictest lese-majeste laws in the world. People have landed in prison for posting an unflattering BBC portrait of a new king on Facebook, or posting comments deemed insulting to the late king’s dog (seriously)….

On the funeral: “All other coverage vanished from newspapers and television.”

When I first got to Thailand, I, like most Westerners, was also fascinated by the ceremonial rituals of the land….

But after four years of living here, the initial fascination had worn off….

I did not see anyone questioning whether the year-long mourning period, or its cost or impact, was justified….

Well, we had some comments, but back to the story:

Because of the lese-majeste, news outlets like AFP have to tread carefully about what they write about the royals. So reporting in Thailand has been tricky at times….

A few days before the funeral, I went to interview Sulak Sivaraksa…. He is a rare intellectual who dares to speak out, but still with extreme caution. The only thing that he accepts to have on the record is that, if past kings are also protected by lese-majeste laws, historians won’t be able to do their jobs….

Ahead of the cremation, I tried to find analysts to speak about the significance of the event. I got one refusal after another. Finally one, David Streckfuss, based in Thailand, agreed. He dictated his quotes to me word by word, changing them here and there to make sure the formulation was not too daring. Normally I would have found this nitpicking ridiculous. But here, I could understand his caution.

One of the things he told me is that other monarchies, like the one in Britain, could evolve because they were open to criticism from civil society. There is nothing like that in Thailand. On the contrary, the Thais are always careful what they say about the royals — there have been instances of people being denounced by a brother, a taxi driver, a neighbor….

Britain’s Daily Mail has been blocked in Thailand for years, after publishing embarrassing material about the new king….

The royal palace is a well-oiled [propaganda] machine. There are no news leaks here. Messages are transmitted in circuitous ways….

That’s not entirely true as there are leaks (think of the naked Srirasmi video), but the general point is true. And, under King Vajiralongkorn, expect efforts to prevent leaks as he attempts to control his image ever more carefully.

To understand what’s going on in Thailand, you need to become adept at reading nearly subliminal signals at times. For example, on the day of the cremation, I see a woman get down from the new king’s Rolls Royce. She is dressed in red, like the new king, and is a familiar face at official ceremonies, but newspapers never write her name or title. (Like they never write about sons who were products of the new king’s second marriage and who currently live in the US.)

A video colleague who had come from Hong Kong to help with coverage asks who the woman is, so that he could put it in the script accompanying his video. Thai colleagues get uncomfortable and tell him to forget it. We all know who she is, but we can’t write her name without official confirmation.

So I call the palace spokeswoman to ask this young woman’s title. After a long pause, she directs me to the office of the new king…. which never answers the phone. The identity of the mystery woman will remain for our clients just that… a mystery.

Of course, there was more than one consort-concubine involved.

Needless to say, neither I nor any of my colleagues have interviewed the new king. I made a request to do so last year, when he was still a crown prince. I was told to go directly to his palace, Ambarasathan, to deposit my written request by hand. I’ll never forget the guards at the palace, all wearing a pin with a portrait of the prince as a baby on their uniforms. I never did get that interview, but the trip was worth it just to see those pins. To me they spoke volumes about the personality of the next king who will head this nation.

We are left to assume that Delphine Thouvenot has left Thailand. Otherwise there would be trouble. There would be trouble because of revealing nothing other than the secrecy of the palace and its machinations.

Update: A reader pointed us to an Australian radio report as an example of the pathetic approach still taken by some reporters based in Bangkok and for who the initial fascination has not worn off. The bit on Thailand must please the palace propagandists.





Dead king, dead dog, lese majeste case goes on

28 06 2017

Thanakorn Siripaiboon was arrested at his house in Samut Prakan Province on 8 December 2015. He was arrested by military and police officers who invoked Article 44 of the then Interim Constitution which gives The Dictator absolute authority to maintain national security. He was accused and then charged with violating the lese majeste law by spreading “sarcastic” content via Facebook which allegedly mocked Thong Daeng, the royal dog.

Both the king and the dog are now deceased.

In one of the most bizarre lese majeste cases ever heard in an increasingly bizarre royalist Thailand, Thanakorn, who has been on bail, sought to have his case heard in a civilian court.

But as Prachatai reports, his appeal was rejected and the “Court Jurisdiction Committee has decided that a lèse majesté suspect accused of mocking the late King’s favourite dog will be tried in a military court.”

He also faces charge under the Computer Crimes Act.

In a separate case, he has been indicted under the sedition law, for posting an infographic on the Rajabhakti Park corruption scandal on Facebook.





More on dog lese majeste

1 12 2016

With a new king meant to be in place on Friday, the lese majeste case involving the now dead king’s now dead dog raises the issue of whether the now dead Fu Fu is now on “sacred ground” too.

In arguably the most bizarre of the many lese majeste cases in recent years, Thanakorn Siripaiboon was arrested on 8 December 2015 by military and police officers. He was accused and has been charged with violating the lese majeste law by spreading “sarcastic” content via Facebook which allegedly mocked Thong Daeng, once the royal dog, favored by the late king.Thong Daeng

A provincial court is reported to have concluded that Bangkok’s military court has the jurisdiction to try the case.

On 29 November 2016, Bangkok’s Military Court of Bangkok held a deposition hearing on the case, reading “a statement from Samut Prakan Provincial Court, which concluded that the jurisdiction to try Thanakorn belongs to the military court according to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s[that’s the military junta] announcement No. 37/2014.”

This means that mocking the dead king’s pet pooch is considered a crime involving national security.

Bizarre.

Thanakorn also faces charges under the Computer Crimes Act for the alleged lese majeste post and another, unrelated sedition charge for having posted an infographic on the Rajabhakti Park corruption scandal on Facebook.

There remains some different view between the provincial and military courts over the details of the lese majeste case. That still has to be sorted out.

Meanwhile, Thanakorn remains on bail and lives as a monk.





Dogs and boats

9 03 2016

In something of a surprise, a military court has “granted bail to a factory worker accused of of lèse majesté for mocking the King’s dog.”

After denying two previous bail requests, Thanakorn Siripaiboon was granted bail on 8 March 2016. Bail was set at half a million baht.

In another story, this one at Khaosod, a singer-comedian has been “fined and forced to apologize to the public today for allegedly desecrating a monument to … the King’s sailboat in a since-deleted music video filmed in Pattaya.”

The monument is of a boat that is sometimes used by children to learn to sail.

For using the “royal monument” in a music video, “Padung Songsaeng was charged with causing a public nuisance, which carries a maximum penalty of 10,000 baht.” He was also forced to pay homage to the “monument on Pattaya Beach, which is dedicated to King Bhumibol’s favorite sailboat.”

Royalist ridiculousness knows no bounds and can only get worse as the king’s death approaches.





Dogged by lese majeste

1 03 2016

Lawyer Anon Nampa is trying to save the military dictatorship from even more ridicule, domestically and internationally.

According to a report at Prachatai, on Monday, Anon submitted a letter to the military Judge Advocate General’s Office,pointing out that the lese majeste charge being considered against his client Thanakorn Siripaiboon is ludicrous, lacking in legal merit even under the draconian Article 112 and likely to make Thailand even more of a legal pariah than it already is.

Thanakorn, a factory worker, stands accused of lese majeste for allegedly “mocking” the now dead mongrel dog that belonged to the king. The case is pushed by “military prosecutors” who seem willfully to ignore what Article 112 actually says.

Anon quite rightly points out that the lese majeste law simply “does not cover the King’s dog.”

Thanakorn is accused under Article 112 of “clicking ‘like’ and posting or sharing a message mocking Thong Daeng,” the king’s dog. He is also accused of clicking ‘like’ on a “doctored image of the King and sharing it with hundreds of others online.”

Thanakorn is also accused of sedition “for posting an infographic on the Rajabhakti Park [military] corruption scandal on Facebook.”

Anon accuses the plaintiff – military prosecutors – of “intentionally used Article 112 as a political tool to deal with political dissidents,” and adds that this use of “disproportionate offences” is itself unlawful.

We doubt the politically motivated prosecutors, acting on the orders of the military junta, will suddenly suffer an attack of good sense and legal probity.

Sadly, Thanakorn remains in custody, almost four months after his arrest, repeatedly denied bail requests.





The bitch is dead, lese majeste madness prevails

13 02 2016

PPT’s record of lese majeste cases is not always as complete as it should be. Although we try to keep up, we are hampered by inconsistent reporting, although, again, we have to give great credit to Prachatai, which does try to follow the cases and to iLaw, which tries to document them. Governments pursuing lese majeste cases don’t always advertise this and some cases are heard in secret. Cases in provincial courts seldom get mentioned.

So we are unsure if we have an accurate recording of lese majeste cases that have involved Thong Daeng, the now dead bitch that was the aged king’s favorite mutt, and which was added into the mix of ludicrous royalist adulation of the monarch and which the king decided to boost with the nonsensical notion that the royal fleabag should be some kind of model for the citizenry.

Our list of lese majeste cases involving the now deceased dog is three. Khaosod mentioned a case against Bundith Arniya who it states was convicted for “writing allegorically about a dog the court deemed a reference to Tong Daeng intended to defame the king.” There was also a report of businessman Praphat Darasawang for defaming the king on Facebook when he disagreed on Facebook with the king’s comparison of his dog to people. We have no further news on either case.

And, of course, there is the case of Thanakorn Siripaiboon who has been accused and will likely be charged with violating the lese majeste law by spreading “sarcastic” content via Facebook which allegedly mocked Thong Daeng while the royal tailwagger.

Prosecutors stated that on 6 December 2015 Thanakorn copied three images from Twitter and spread it on his Facebook page. The royalist bloodhounds said the images contained “sarcastic” content about the royal mongrel.

Thanakorn also faces another charge of lese majeste for clicking “Like” on a doctored image of the king on Facebook and a charge of sedition for sharing an infographic detailing alleged corruption behind the construction of the scandal-plagued Rajabhakti/Corruption Park.

Prachatai reports that a military court “has again denied bail to a lèse majesté suspect accused of mocking the King’s dog while the suspect’s defence lawyer maintains that the case does not fall under the lèse majesté law.”

Of course, no dead dog is covered by the law. But under the military dictatorship and under the royalist judiciary – military or otherwise – any interpretation of the law is possible for dead kings, ancient kings, dynasties and pet pooches. The result of this interpretation – and we use the term loosely because the law is actually very clear – is not only political but it is nonsensical and crosses the line into psychosis, where judges and those standing behind them have lost touch with reality and exhibit personality changes and thought disorder based on their perception that they are protecting the monarchy. Hence the courts and those promoting the use of lese majeste exhibit bizarre behavior, and experience difficulty with social interactions (say, with the media).

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) report that on 11 February 2016, the military court denied bail and, for a sixth time, extended Thanakorn’s pre-trial detention. The police say they haven’t finished their investigations and are “now gathering forensic computer evidence…”.

Thanakorn’s lawyer made several representations: “that prolonging the detention of the suspect violates human rights since the accusations against Thanakorn are disproportionate to his actions and the investigation of the case is taking too long;” that he should not have been charged under Article 112 as the law is clear that no dead dog is covered by it; and that  Thanakorn “should not have been charged under Article 116, the sedition law, for posting an infographic on the Rajabhakti park corruption scandal.”

As is expected in these increasingly bizarre lese majeste cases, the military court dismissed all representations.

Thanakorn was taken into custody at his house in Samut Prakan Province on 8 December 2015. Military and police officers invoked Article 44 on national security to enable them to arrest him, a completely unnecessary ruse when it comes to the lawlessness that prevails in lese majeste cases.





More on lese majeste cases

28 12 2015

red candleAs usual, it is Prachatai doing the hard work on reporting lese majeste cases. In two reports earlier today, it details two cases, one well-known and the other unknown until now.

The first case is that of factory worker Thanakorn Siripaiboon, accused in a military court of mocking Thong Daeng, the king’s favorite bitch, now dead. (We are sure that the military dictatorship will arrange a suitably grand and taxpayer-funded funeral for the dead dog.)

The military court refused bail for a second time on 25 December 2015, and allowed police to detain him “for a second period of 12 days with the possibility of further extensions.” Bail was refused because of “the severity of the case, as it is related to national security and the … monarchy, and flight risk. ”

The second case involves a young man identified by the pseudonym Oh, from Ubol. who has been in jail for 18 months of a 15 year sentence. He was originally arrested in March 2012 and granted bail. His case was reactivated after the 2014 coup.  Oh was charged for” 9 Facebook posts or 9 offences of defaming, insulting or threatening the monarchy” and was sentenced under both Article 112 and the Computer Crimes Act. Oh and his family claim that he committed the alleged offenses under pressure from a state spy.