Lese majeste as pedagogy

12 03 2015

One of the important reasons for the ready use of the grotesque lese majeste law is as a form of instruction. The pedagogy of lese majeste is simple: don’t mess with the royalist elite who believe that Thailand is their fiefdom.

There’s another lesson being taught, this time to the royal hangers-on: don’t mess with the crown prince who is soon to be king.

At Khaosod it is reported that the “parents of a former Thai princess have been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for insulting the monarchy.” In total, they got five years on the lese majeste charge, halved for the almost required guilty plea. That guilty plea was entered despite earlier claims to the media that they had not committed the alleged offense.

Apiruj and Wantanee Suwadee, the parents of  Srirasmi, the estranged third wife of Prince Vajiralongkorn, were accused only last month “of using their royal connections to have a woman in Ratchaburi province imprisoned for 18 months on a bogus fraud conviction.”

Maybe they did, as those close to the powerful and dangerous in Thailand can generally act with impunity. But that’s not the pedagogical point. The lesson is that anyone who falls out with the prince not only loses their impunity and ability to become wealthy through the royal connection, but risks destruction.

Even the newspaper notes that this conviction has been “unusually swift,” but then so have all the other cases associated with the prince’s housecleaning.

More remarkable was the fact that the judge noted that the “two defendants ‘voluntarily’ declined to be represented by a lawyer during the trial.” Obviously, the defendants realized that there was no point. Even if innocent, they were to be jailed. They probably also realized that defending the case would likely bring a longer sentence and even further pressure on their family and their daughter who seems to be in virtual house arrest.

Khaosod states:

Apiruj and Wantanee are the latest members of former Princess Srirasmi’s family to be convicted of lese majeste this year. In one of the biggest scandals to rock the palace in recent years, Srirasmi resigned from the Royal Family in December 2014 after her brother, sister, and uncle were arrested on charges of lese majeste and running a massive crime ring.

Srirasmi’s uncle, former police commander Pongpat Chayapan, and sister, Sudathip Muangnuan, were found guilty of lese majeste on 30 January and 2 February, respectively.

The lessons are clear.

Royals know nothing

1 03 2015

In a recent Khaosod report a couple of lines got our attention.

The lines referred to the sudden “confession” of lese majeste by Apiruj and Wantanee Suwadee, the parents of Srirasmi, the estranged wife of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, as part of an avalanche of cases associated with the prince’s separation from his third wife.

It was reported that Panita Suwadee, a sister of the former princess, “insisted that no members of the Royal Family were aware of the alleged crime syndicate run by Srirasmi’s uncle, Pol.Lt.Gen. Pongpat Chayaphan.”

She went further:

I’d like all of you [the media] to understand about the monarchy. All of the things that happened, the monarchy was not aware of them at all…. Our family doesn’t know about it either. We have been serving the monarchy with our loyal hearts. So I’d like you to know that all the illegal casinos and other cases are not connected to the monarchy at all. They are connected only to Pongpat. He claimed his ties to the monarchy on his own.

That sounds a tad too insistent and even a bit fabricated to us. Fittingly, it is Hamlet that comes to mind: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Her vehement attempt to convince others that the royals know nothing is likely to convince us that the opposite is true.

Likewise the piling of bodies into jails and the remarkable 30+ years now handed out to Pongpat in record time add to the general sense of a royalist-military cover-up of a deep involvement.

Pongpat’s most recent sentencing is for the pretty much standard bribes for promotion in the police. These have been known for decades. Pongpat allegedly “claimed the bribes would reach HRH the Crown Prince.”

It is remarkable that so many claimed to act as money vacuum cleaners for the prince. And not a satang went to anyone in the royal family or the prince’s household….


Updated: Lese majeste as farce I

27 02 2015

On 5 February, Apiruj and Wantanee Suwadee were accused of lese majeste. The parents of Srirasmi, the estranged wife of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn found themselves caught up in a swathe of cases associated with the prince’s separation from his third wife.

The lese majeste accusation was filed by Sawita Maneechan of Ratchaburi province. She accused Apiruj and Wantanee of using their royal connection to bully her in 2003, eventually having her jailed.Mum and dad

Sawita said that Wantanee had falsely accused her of having an affair with Apiruj and later used her royal connection to convince a high-ranking police officer to charge Sawita with fraud. She was found guilty and sentenced to 18 months in jail because she confessed to what she claimed was a bogus charge.

Wantanee and Apiruj denied all accusations and vowed to fight the charges.

PPT has no inside knowledge of this case but we would think it almost “normal” that those with associated with the monarchy using their reflected power for their own advantage; this is the elite’s bonus for honoring/sucking up to the royals. When associated with the gangster-like prince, the power wielded is threatening and large.

When that link and associated power is removed, those involved are hung out to dry. In this case, the association with the prince was mediated by Srirasmi, and her crash from grace has seen her family and associated excoriated.

By 27 February, they had confessed to the lese majeste charges and to filing a false police report. The police now say they want to lock up the aged couple and will oppose any bail request.

Why would there be such a turnaround? Again, we have no inside knowledge and yet we can guess. The couple was probably threatened with even more charges or charges against other family members. They had watched as others were smashed by the prince and the military regime. Guilty or not, they had no choice.

That’s the way the royal mafia works. It protects the royals from any scrutiny and allows them to do what they want with impunity and with the state’s support, including jailing persons for falling foul of a royal.

Update: Khaosod reports that Wantanee and Apiruj have been jailed and await trial. The report has some interesting quotes regarding their submission:

“We have confessed everything,” Wantanee said to reporters after the meeting, “What I have done, what I have said, I did not mean it. That is all. I have confessed to every allegation. I don’t want to say much. I only would like to say that I still love and revere the monarchy.”

Her husband told reporters, “I repent my crimes. I don’t know what I should say. I now repent the things I have done without thinking.”

The isolation of Srirasmi seems pretty complete as almost her whole family has been jailed. Thailand’s royals seem to have “progressed” somewhat over the last 400 years; back then, they would have all been murdered.

Family lese majeste

11 02 2015

Apiruj and Wantanee Suwadee have been accused of lese majeste. Khaosod reports on their appearance at police headquarters earlier this week.

These are the parents of the former wife of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, Srirasmi. She has been thrown out of the prince’s palace, de-royalified and publicly humiliated. Almost 30 persons associated with her and her family and former networks linked to the prince’s palace have been charged with lese majeste and other crimes.

Khaosod states a couple of times that Srirasmi “resigned from the Royal Family…”. This is nonsense. She was ditched out by the prince who wants to promote a fourth wife.

Apiruj and Wantanee are accused “of using their royal connections to bully [Sawita Maneechan] … in 2003.” She was jailed for 18 months for fraud.

We have no idea if the claims by Sawita are true. However, we do know that using royal connections for personal benefit is common.

Apiruj and Wantanee face charges of lese majeste and with “facilitating the filing of false police reports that led to criminal charges.”

Both have denied the allegations. We thought their comments were revealing, not so much about the case, but about the crushing of Srirasmi and her family:

“I don’t know what to say,” Wantanee said. “I never knew [Sawita]. I don’t know who is who in her family. Please give us some fairness. We never knew anything about it. We never intended to bully anyone. You can make me swear oath on anything, I will do it.”

Today’s meeting at the police headquarters was the first time Srirasmi’s parents have appeared in public as commoners since the scandal broke out last year.

Asked to comment on the allegations, Wantanee said she has never flaunted her daughter’s connection to the Crown Prince.

“We lived as commoners,” Wanatee said. “We never required any visitors to our residence to kowtow or crawl on their knees. We greeted them normally. There’s no hierarchy. We are all equals. We treated them with dignity.”

As we said, we have no idea of the truth, but they seem to beseech the prince:

… “There’s nothing else we can lose in this life, because we have lost everything already. Don’t pile more troubles on us, please. What else do you want from us? We have no more tears to cry these days. Please show us some sympathy and compassion. We never intended to insult the monarchy. We love every member of the Royal Family. No matter what happened, we still love and revere them to this day.”

Police Maj. Gen. Thitirat Nongharnpitak said the police will proceed with the “sensitive” case. He said:

“As far as our initial investigation concerns, there are some facts and evidence to this case,” Pol.Maj.Gen. Thitirat said. “But we will also respect the rights of the accused, because it is a sensitive case. Society is watching. Let me stress that everything will be according with evidence.”

The others caught up in network and householder cleaning saw little law or justice and were jailed in record time.

Further updated: Lese majeste exorcism

6 02 2015

As we regularly state, lese majeste is essentially a political charge. In recent months and weeks, however, it has been used in other ways, some of them highly personal and referring to very specific behavior and individuals.

In the swathe of cases associated with Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s separation from his third wife, some of the lese majeste have referred to alleged crimes, some claimed to be massive, and others have targeted alleged fraud by comparing retail and market prices for produce sold to the prince’s household.

Khaosod has another of the quite bizarre reports associated with this exorcism of a wife and her family and their associates.

It reports that Srirasmi’s parents “are facing charges of lese majeste…”.

The charges were reportedly “filed by Sawita Maneechan, a resident in Ratchaburi province. Sawita accused Apiruj and Wantanee Suwadee, the parents of former princess Srirasmi, of using their royal connection to bully her in 2003.”

Sawita said that Wantanee “falsely accused her of having an affair with Apiruj.” It is alleged that “Wantanee later used her royal connection to convince a high-ranking police officer to charge Sawita with a bogus fraud charge…”.

Sawita was found guilty and sentenced to 18 months in jail because she confessed to what she claimed was a bogus charge.

In addition to Srirasmi’s parents, “several of her relatives, including her brother and sister, were arrested on charges of lese majeste and running a massive corruption ring.”

Khaosod states that at least “27 arrest warrants have been issued to people in connection with the [alleged] crime network.” Srirasmi was kicked out of the palace, stripped of her title, her royal surname was scrapped and it seems the prince has their son. It is “unclear whether Srirasmi and the Crown Prince are formally divorced.”

In fact, the behavior seen in the prince’s household, while extreme, fits a pattern of royal excess, massive and unchallenged power and wealth, grasping greed and the use of state resources for personal gain. When there is a falling out in the royal gang, it can sometimes be public and extreme.

FuFu in GermanyUpdate 1: With all of the royal family housecleaning taking place, PPT neglected to report all of the social media activity associated with the passing of the prince’s favorite dog, Fu Fu. In a sensible world, a king’s dog and prince’s hound should count for nothing. Yet in ultra-royalist Thailand, royal pooches matter. They get television coverage, they appear at dinners, official events and at birthday parties [clicking the link opens a video banned in Thailand]. All of this nonsensical adoration of royal canines shows how silly yet sad Thailand’s royals and their sycophants are. Andrew MacGregor Marshall has an account of Fu Fu’s death and royal cremation at The Guardian. He sees the event from a successionist perspective. We think it is more a sad commentary on contemporary Thailand and enforced royalism.

Update 2: Ji Ungpakorn has also posted on the Fu Fu funeral rites and the degeneration of the Thai royals. Noting rising tension between royalists and others, he’s right to be pointing to what we’d see as a monarchy meltdown.

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