By Ann Norman
You can read about the attack on Thailand’s lese majesty law by UN special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expresssion, David Kaye, and download the Amnesty International Report, in this Bangkok Post article HERE.
Meanwhile Worldwide Movement for Human Rights Presidents states that “The skyrocketing number of arbitrary detentions of lèse-majesté defendants under Thailand’s military junta has severely damaged the country’s international image. If this trend continues, there is a real chance that the junta’s extreme campaign to protect the monarchy could amount to crimes against humanity.”
You can read the Thai government’s lame defense here at the website of the Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
My point-by-point response to the Thai goverment’s statement, addresses the English-speaking audience who the Thai government hopes to fool:
1A) I will not take a position on whether the Thai King Bhumibol was a pillar of stability. There has been a kind of stability, if you can call 12 coups in 80 years stability. Nevertheless, the question of whether King Bhumibol provided stability in the past is entirely separate from the question of whether new King Vajiralongkon can provide stability going forward. It is hard to imagine that Vairoralonkorn will be a unifying symbol as he has no charisma or moral authority, seems to be corrupt and sadistic, and lives in Germany. Furthermore, it would take North Korea-style oppression to suppress all the open secrets Vajiralonkorn has to hide. Unless the oppressive lese majesty law is removed, the monarchy will not be a stabilizing force into the future. The monarchy will be an enemy to all those who value the truth.
1B) As for the statement that lese majesty legislation is common in other countries: There are laws against insulting royalt on the books in Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain, Kuwait, Jordan, and Saudia Arabia, Moroco, and Mayasia. In most of these countries, the laws are on the books but almost never used. Only Thailand has a whole separate Wikipedia page devoted to its lese majesty law. It is a standout in the world, both for the harness of its law (3 to 15 years PER negative statement againt royalty) and for the number of people (50 to 100 people) jailed each year. And thousands more “lese majesty suspects’ must flee the country to avoid prosecution and are actively hunted abroad by the Thai government directly and indirectly, through vigilantism. (When I say, actively, I mean this week and today).
2) In response to Thailand’s claim that lese majesty is NOT aimed at curbing rights to freedom of expression and are in no way politically movitated, BULL SHIT!!!! As is clear to all, most of Thailand’s lese majesty victims are human rights defenders, pro-democracy activists, and members of opposition political parties. (Most of the rest appear to be victims of mysterious intra-palace purges.) The case of Pai Daodin illustrates this clearly: nearly 3,000 other Thais shared the same article that Pai shared. Yet only Pai, a prominent human rights and prodemocracy activist, was charged.
3) Thailand is correct in saying that the rights to freedom of expression are not absolute, and come with come responsibilities as stipulated in Article 19(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, this does NOT make the lese majesty law OK. It makes libel laws and antidefamation laws OK, as long as they apply to everyone equally. But the Thai lese majesty law, protecting just 3 people, is blatantly and disastrously discriminatory. As stated in the first sentence of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. And the first sentence of Article 7: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
5) IF the proceedings in lese majesty cases were conducted according to due legal process, it would not change the fact that the lese majesty law is cruel and inhumane. But the proceedings are never conducted according to due legal process. The accused is routinely denied bail and court proceedings are carried out in secret, as has been the case with Pai Daodin who was denyed bail six times for his nonviolent crime of sharing a facebook article, and whose last bail hearing was conducted in secret.
6) With regard to the case of Mr. Jutapat Boonpattaraksa (Pai Daodin), his bail was revoked on the excuse that he made a sarcastic comment, specifically, “The economy is bad, so my bail is high.” Which is nothing. But the Thai government will pretend it is something in a lame attempt to justify their arbitrary incarceration of Mr. Jutapat.
In addition, the Thai Monarchy receives an annual budget of some US$500m from the government to run their palaces across the country even though Thai monarchy has been ranked the richest in the world 6 years in a row by Forbes magazine and is worth some $50 billion! People should have the right to make any constructive comments without fear of reprisals!