With a major update: News on historian’s lese majeste charge

23 04 2011

The internet/email is lit up with rumors that a prominent historian has been charged with lese majeste. If readers have any confirming information, please email us at: thaipoliticalprisoners@gmail.com.

Update 1: Here’s what Prachatai say:

Academic threatened with lese majeste charges

Somsak Jeamtheerasakul [สมศักดิ๋ เจียมธีรสกุล], a staunch critic of the monarchy, has been threatened with lese majeste charges. He and other academics will hold a press conference tomorrow at Thammasat University.

The press conference will be held at LT 1 room, Faculty of Law, Tha Prachan campus, April 24, 2011, at 2 pm.

Somsak, a well known critic of the monarchy, has produced a number of critiques on issues concerning the institution.

His Facebook page had 5,000 friends, until it was recently deactivated by himself.

He was one of the speakers at a public forum on the monarchy, constitution and democracy held by the Nitirassadorn, a group of Thammasat law lecturers, on 10 Dec 2010.

Update 2: Thai E-News has a long post in Thai.

Update 3: The Nation now has a story on this case. It refers to the “shock” felt at the lese majeste charges against “high-profile Thammasat University historian Somsak Jiamteerasakul…”. In fact, that is partly what lese majeste is about, shocking and silencing others.

Critics are reportedly arguing that this high-profile arrest will likely “backfire.” The report cites “Vipar Daomanee, a fellow academic at Thammasat University, said: ‘Somsak has always been careful [in expressing himself] and the fact that the ruling class is using this law is short-sighted, blind and dictatorial‘.”

Perhaps thinking of Abhisit Vejjajiva’s claims that academic criticism is not “out-of-bounds” when it comes to lese majeste, “Vipar … added that Somsak always cited detailed academic texts and facts whenever he criticised the law or the institution.” Clearly, those pushing the current round of lese majeste persecutions have thrown that idea out and are now setting their sights on any critics of the monarchy, trying to rub out all opposition.

Somsak “announced on Facebook yesterday that he would hold a press conference at 2pm today to discuss the charge and how it impacts his academic freedom at Thammasat University’s Law Faculty. Somsak had made a much-talked about speech on December 10 last year regarding the Thai monarchy and the Constitution. He stated on his Facebook page that the public lecture was the basis for the lese-majeste charge.”

Lese majeste academic David Streckfuss states:  “Striking against red-shirt leaders is one thing but striking against an academic is another…”, adding that “Somsak and his group’s approach to criticisms are ‘very measured’.”

The article also claims that Somsak has been subject to “threatening phone calls of late and some unknown motorcyclists also drove in front of his home to harass him.”

The pattern for Thailand is depressingly clear and dark.