Between 2,500 and 3,000 people shared the BBC news article about the new Thai King that Pai Daodin shared on Facebook. Yet only Pai was charged with lese majesty for sharing it. This selective enforcement is easily explained. Those on upper levels of Thailand’s rigid social hierarchy (similar to the racist social heirarchy of the US South prior to the Civil Rights era) are eager to punish leaders in the fight for democracy and respect for human rights (including free speech), such as Pai.
Many of the other famous victims of Thailand’s lese majesty law illustrate this same selective enforcement. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk who is currently finishing the last two years of a 7-year sentence, was charged a full year after publishing (not writing but publishing) two articles, but only 5 days after he started a petition calling for the repeal of the lese majesty law.
The young man charged with lese majesty for liking a joke about King Bhumipol’s dog on Facebook (I am sure the entire population of Thailand has at some point made a joke about King Vajiralongkorn’s beloved poodle Foo Foo), is similarly a pro-democracy activist.
The King experiences the opposite version of selective enforcement. While those all around him go to jail for corruption of various sorts, the King, whose reputation is that of a cold-blooded killer and nickname is that of a gangster, walks out of the mess still free. In 2014, Vajiralongkorn dumped his wife after her family members started being arrested for involvement in a smuggling ring. In total 22 people were arrested, and 17 of those were charged with lese majesty (for implying their illegal activities had royal backing). It is almost inconceivable that 22 of Vajiralongkorn’s friends and family were involved in a smuggling ring without his knowledge. The wife that he dumped, the beautiful Princess Srirasmi, who was about to become Queen, has disappeared from site and we have been told she may be dead.
Or take the recent case of Jumpol Manmai, the king’s close aide and friend: Khun Jumpol recently disappeared and was presumed dead, THEN was fired by the King for “misconduct extremely evil behavior” and “political interests which were detrimental to national security and not trusted by the King,” then turned up alive in court to face the charge of “land enchroachment.” Also probably relevant, Jumpol once “served as Thaksin’s bag man, personally delivering to the Crown Prince monies skimmed off the proceeds of the lotteries” according to Wikileaks material quoted by Political Prisoners in Thailand. (Khun Jumpol is the man whose disappearance led to the discovery of a secret prison IN THE KING’S PALACE.)
The BBC new article that Pai shared (here we quote from the English version) mentions:
“A police officer linked to the family died in custody after falling from a window. That charge, of abusing his [Vajiralongkorn’s] name, has also been made against others who became close to the Crown Prince, notably a well known fortune teller who, together with another police officer, died after being arrested late last year. At the same time, the Crown Prince’s personal bodyguard was stripped of his rank for ‘disobeying royal commands’ and ‘threatening the monarchy by pursuing his own interests’. He disappeared and is believed to have died.”
[Note: The bodyguard case was prior to and different from the Jumpol Manmai case. And please continue to watch the cases of both Jumpol Mammai and Srirasmi; friend fears for their lives.]
Instead of protecting the King from Pai Daodin, Thailand should be protecting Pai Daodin and all other Thais from a king who attacks his enemies with the ruthlessness and frequency of a Kim Jong Un or a Vladimir Putin. Thailand should repeal the lese majesty law that places the King above the law and punishes those who speak of his misdeeds. It is not so surprising that King Vajiralongkorn, Kim Jong Un, and Vladimir Putin act so similarly. Complete impunity turns people into monsters.