[first posted April 15, 2017]
This year Pai Doadin will be missing out on the fun of Thailand’s best holiday: Songkran, the national water splashing festival, which is also the Thai New Year. He will not be wearing a Hawaiian shirt, throwing buckets of water at friends and strangers, or wandering the streets with a Super Soaker. He will not be at home with his family performing a water blessing for his parents. (This is because he has been in jail since Christmas awaiting trial for the crime of sharing a BBC news article about the new King on facebook.
Pai Daodin has been in jail since a few days before Christmas. He has been in jail 10 + 31 + 28 + 31 + 15 = 115 days awaiting trial for lese majesty, which is insulting the King—even though he didn’t even say anything, he merely shared a BBC Thai news article that almost 3,000 other Thais also shared. In fact the BBC revealed last week that the Thai article that Pai shared was their MOST-READ article EVER. It was 10 times more popular than their next most popular news article. And if Pai had wanted to say something about the King, his right to do so should have been respected.
Meanwhile, the King was out this week in a loud yellow party shirt having fun, playing carnival games at a Songkran festival, with servants carrying umbrellas to shield him from the sun.
It was not convenient to begin shouting about Pai Dao Din over the Christmas Vacation, and it is not convenient to be blogging today, right before my children arrive for the Easter weekend and I start to color Easter eggs. And it makes me a not-fun person internationally to be going on about Pai Daodin this during Thailand’s fun Songkran. So why do I do it and what difference does it make?
Pai Daodin is one year younger than the youngest of my three sons. He even looks like them. And he is no more guilty of a crime than are my three sons, who will be here soon, one with a wife and one with a girlfriend, to celebrate a holiday weekend. Because I am a mother of three good, grown boys, I understand the pain that Pai’s mother must feel, and I have endless motivation to fight for Pai Daodin.
Pai Daodin is not the only victim of lese majesty, but maybe he can be the last. For me, Pai’s case represents the 50 to 100 other cases each year—the students thrown in jail for putting on a play or making a joke about the King’s dog; and the people who allegedly commited actual financial crimes but never got due process because the lese majesty law was used to convict them quickly in trials that were held in secret.
Beyond these 50 to 100 cases a year, I am painfully aware of the 1,000s who, because of the lese majesty law, have had to flee the country altogether and live in exile—in Europe, Hong Kong, America, and the countries adjacent to Thailand. And they are still not completely safe from the royalist-supremisists, vigilantes analogous to the KKK, who hunt the anti-royalists abroad. The 1,000s of Thai dissidents are are also missing their families this Songkran. These are my friends, people who love and miss Thailand. Lese majesty is a law that divides Thai people from each other and from their own country. It ruins lives. The use of this law is escalating, and the irreparable damage it does to society is escalating. It is time for this savage, counterproductive, archaic law to go.
This case of Pai Daodin is a case that never should have happened. It is ridiculous and evil on its face. It makes Thailand, the palace, and this junta look ridiculous and evil. I suspect if those in power knew how big this would get, they never would have charged some mother’s child with lese majesty for sharing a news article. It is not too late to make this all go away before a young, promising life is ruined for nothing. A word from the King would make it this all go away. Why doesn’t King Vajiralongkorn speak that word to the people holding Pai Daodin in jail, without bail, for nothing? Why doesn’t he end this system of oppression?
I bet you thought I was going to talk about the new pictures released this week of Vajiralongkorn wandering Germany wearing skimpy clothing in public with members of his haram. Honestly, I don’t care what he wears or how kinky he wants to be. If he would just release the political prisoners, beginning with Pai Dao Din, I would drop this.
Our former slave-owning President Thomas Jefferson’s birthday was celebrated this week. Why are we still celebrating the birthday of a slave owner? Because this slave owner also wrote the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming that all men are born equal, with certain rights that can never be taken away. If King Vajiralongkorn could end the lese majesty law, which many were hoping he actually might do, history would probably forget the horrible things he has done and remember him as a liberator.
It is almost too late, but there is one last chance to turn this thing around.