There has been a rash of lese majeste charges flying around Thailand of late. In Some cases premature, and others well justified. So Connecting the Dots has decided to take a look.
First off let Connecting the Dots state our policy on lese majeste. When we make comments that may involve the royal family, the royal family is not the topic of the story. For example we may report on Thaksin and Thaksin bringing up the royal family. In that case the story is still about Thaksin. It would be the same if we reported Thaksin was doing ‘x’. The story remains about Thaksin. Most recently Thaksin’s push to get a royal pardon and that we felt it was very disrespectful to the King in the way he was going about it. Hence we expressed we did not approve of the disrespect we felt Thaksin was doing to the royal family. It is very clear others have the same view of that including the Prime Minister, so in that respect we simply showed our high level of respect to be on Par with the Prime Minister. That is as close as we will get to covering the royal family as it is not what Connecting the Dots is interested in, and we happily leave that to others.
In all respect we honor and admire the King and truly wish more people were like him. The world would be a much better place if there were.
However in recent months lese majeste is being used as a tool. For example the recent charge on the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. Apparently it stems from the sale of a CD that has a speech that may be viewed as lese majeste. However as that has yet to make it to a final court ruling, the issue if it is or is not lese majeste has yet to be decided. However the person who filed the charges has jumped the gun and has assumed the court will rule it to be lese majeste. If there is any crime it may be putting words in the courts mouth with this premature action. With this you start to see the first dots coming together.
There is a clear but jagged line where lese majeste may be used for political gain vs what the intention of the law was. There are some foreigners who simply make a mistake drunken or other that violate the law directly. There are also a lot of Thais very recently who are walking on thin ice, and seemingly most of them are associated with Thaksin one way or another. So when we connect the dots around these people, from time to time they involve the royal family themselves. So for us to paint a clear picture we make mention that they somehow involved the royal family.
One recent incident that was a bit of a catch 22 involved someone saying something that was lese majeste and to repeat it would cause that person to be guilty of the same crime. Needless to say to present this as evidence in court would cause the prosecuting attorney to be guilty as well. We do not know how that turned out or if it is still in the works.
To look at this in another way, lese majeste in Thailand offers the same level of stress as political correctness does in the west. The fear of saying something that may upset someone makes the parallels very clear. So this is where the expansion looks to be trying to form. To be accused of saying that someone may have done something that could be lese majeste may now be the next expanse of this law. To put it another way; John saw Bill doing something that may be lese majeste and told Jim. Because John told Jim what he saw Bill do, John is now guilty too for simply talking about it. From the outside this is seen as insanity, but if everyone on the inside is drinking from the same well, jail time for John is a real possibility. This is the biggest concern the media has at the moment as it amounts to self imposed censorship. As it stands now as long as you do not repeat what was possibly lese majeste you are OK. That is where Connecting the Dots is.
So it is hard to nail this down other than it seems everyone is hypersensitive and is in need of some therapy. It is also very clear that much of this heighten activity evolving around lese majeste can be traced back to Thaksin. There is a very clear increase when you take a look at the time line of events after the 2006 coup.
Given that you really don’t like things that are PC, what is your feeling on the lese majeste laws?
Do you think these laws and the fact that the Thai education system is terribly poor are connected?