It seems ironic that King Vajiralongkorn’s daughter, Princess Bajrakitiyabha, is to become a goodwill ambassador for the rule of law in Southeast Asia. The principle of the rule of law stands in direct contrast to governance by the arbitrary whims of monarchs or dictators. Southeast Asia certainly needs a champion who can articulate and advocate for adherence to abstract rules that apply equally to everybody. She certainly seems to have the right educational background: a LL.B degree from Thammasat University, as well a B.A. degree in International Relations from Sukhothai Thammatirat University (2000) and a Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D.) degree from Cornell University (2005). The Reuters article assures us that Princess Bajrakitiyabha “doesn’t see herself as above the law.” It is imperative that she answer one further question: “Does she consider it right that HER FATHER is above the rule of law?” Or to put it another way, can she please comment on Thailand’s harsh lese majesty law, which has been repeatedly condemned by the UN?
The lese majesty law in Thailand (Article 112 of Thailand’s Penal Code) states that anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” will be punished with 3 to 15 years in prison. Even true statements are forbidden if they are unflattering to the king, queen or heir apparent. This law allows Thai Kings to literally get away with murder, or any other crime. The new King Vajiralongkorn is believed to have mafia connections and many of his close associates mysteriously die or disappear. His third ex-wife has not been seen in several years. Recently, a case brought again Vajiralongkorn’s close aid Jumpol Manmai lead to the discovery of what is apparently secret prison at the King’s palace! No one inside Thailand can speak out publically about any of the purges or punishments that take place out of sight, extrajudicially, or according to irregular procedures, following the whims of King Vajiralongkorn.
Another contradiction to the rule of law in Thailand is the junta’s Article 44 of the Interim Constitution, also known as the Dictator’s law, which allows the coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha to take any action he feels in necessary. This law was recently used justify the used of overwhelming force against the giant Buddhist temple, Wat Prah Dhammakaya, 4,000 military, police, and investigation officers were employed for 3 weeks to try to find one man, the head abbobt in order charge him with a nonviolent crime. King Vajiralongkorn seems to be supporting Prayut Chan-o-cha in his attack on the temple.
I cannot guess Princess Bajrakitiyabha’s opinion’s on these matters. And I do not mean to imply guilt by association, with her father. I don’t even know if she is on good terms with her father. Indeed, one of Vajiralongkorn’s sons already works for the UN. The Thai Alliance for Human Rights welcomes all such allies in working for human rights and international understanding. However, if Princess Bajrakitiyabha for any reason (personal conviction, personal loyalty, family ties, or fear) can’t speak out on this huge problem undermining rule of law in Thailand, she should recuse herself from this position and the UN should find someone more suited to the job.
Conversely, if she is truly wants to promote the rule of law in Southeast Asia, and if she agrees with the UN that the persecution of hundreds by the lese majesty may amount to crimes against humanity, she is in a unique position to speak out on behalf of all those silenced by this law. These are not minor concerns. Article 112 and Article 44 are at the heart of every Thai human rights issue that Thai Alliance for Human Rights has written to the UN about.
How well does Princess Bajrakitiyabha understand her duty? How well does she understand the situation of her country or what have Thais been facing? In what ways does she address the judicial crisis in her country? As she is working for women prisoners, did she ever do anything to try to help female political prisoners Da Torpedo or Pornthip Monkong (now released), or Patnaree Chankij (case pending), or Sirikan Charoensiri (human rights lawyer charged with sedition for defending her clients). If she is concerned about horrible prison conditions why doesn’t she help Somyot Pruesakasamsuk who had complained about crowded conditions and harassment of prisoners? When Thailand uses applies laws to some group of people unfairly, or uses double standards in the application of laws to different group of people (as seems to be the case with the Wat Pra Dhammakaya drama), has she ever spoken out?
Has she petitioned her father on behalf of Pai Daodin whose only “crime” is to share an unflattering BBC news article about her father on Facebook. Pai is only 25 years old and faces 3 to 15 years for this ridiculous “crime.” It seems inexplicable that Pai has not been released given his obvious innocence and the widespread national and international outrage, including at the UN. It is rumored that the reason it is the King himself who has ORDERED this persecution of Pai Daodin.
If Princess Bajrakitiyabha cannot side with Pai Daodin in this one clear-cut case, she should be let go as a UN goodwill ambassador. If she can plead with her father on Pai Daodin’s behalf we will be eternally grateful.
Ann Norman and the Committee for the Thai Alliance for Human Rights.