oh to be a king…
News from the lovely and notoriously conservative Thailand…
Thailand’s military government has requested the extradition of several people suspected of insulting the monarchy after the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the foreign minister said on Tuesday.
Sensitivities are running high in the Southeast Asian country following the death of the revered king on October 13, after seven decades on the throne.
It has also led to the rise of ultra-royalist vigilante groups who say they will punish anyone perceived to have insulted the monarchy during a highly sensitive time for Thailand.
There has been a jump in the number of prosecutions for criticism of the monarch, the regent or the heir to the throne. Known by the French term lese majeste, the crime can carry a jail term of up to 15 years for each offense.
Have an opinion about the King of Thailand that is not blatantly positive? Well shut the hell up! Because you will swiftly have the boot of the Thai state smashing your teeth in if you don’t!
In other words… Dont Say That.
I’d say that Thailand could prove to be the sociologists wet dream, as it would allow them to research the relationship between solely positive media coverage and the realities of the monarchy, but that would require the ability for people to speak freely… which obviously isn’t possible. How can you expect to study the relationship between the public’s perception of the monarchy if they can’t voice their thoughts freely? You can’t.
Anyways, Thailand has been a whipping boy for the popular media for decades now. Thailand’s lese majeste laws allow for them to sell easy stories to people like myself who are amazed at such absurd restrictions on speech. They also love a good coup story… but that’s not what we’re talking about is it.
Coup makers, since the Thammasat University massacre and coup in 1976, have regularly cited a surge of alleged lèse-majesté as a prerequisite for overthrowing an elected government. The 2006 coup, when lèse-majesté was cited as one of the major reasons, marked a surge of the lèse-majesté cases. After the 2014 Thai coup d’état, Thailand had the highest number of lèse-majesté prisoners in the nation’s history. The junta granted authority to Army Court to prosecute lèse-majesté. In one case it sentenced a man to 60 years in prison (later reduced to 30 years after he pleaded guilty), the longest recorded sentence. Secret trials and harsh punishments have also been used.
It saddens me that we live in a world where people cannot simply state an opinion… that just speaking your thoughts can end in brutal punishment.
A Note: Americans… you be free here! It seems that the United States requires ‘Double Criminality’ in its extradition treaties. Which means that the United States would need to have its own version of a lese majeste law for an American to be extradited. We’ll have to wait for the lawyers to blog about this before we get a better idea of the laws involved though…
Update (10/25/2016) – Man Insults Dog, Faces Prison Sentence
Thailand’s strict laws making it a crime to insult the monarchy entered new territory on Monday when a factory worker was charged with disparaging the king’s dog.
In a case brought in a Thai military court, the worker, Thanakorn Siripaiboon, was charged with making a “sarcastic” Internet post related to the king’s pet. He also faces separate charges of sedition and insulting the king.
This is real life… real, actual, life.
Update (11/3/2016) – Lese Majeste versus Messaging Apps
So it seems that in its continual quest to punish those thinkers and talkers of all things royal… the Thai government has been attempting to get access to the users of the messaging app Line.
The company has apparently now refused to obey a Thai government demand that it alert the government to anyone insulting the Thai royal family on the messaging app. For years, we’ve written about Thailand’s ridiculous lese majeste laws, which make it a crime to insult the king. As we’ve noted, the law is used as a way to censor and crack down on political opponents. And, of course, with the death of the Thai king last month, there’s been a sudden uptick in Thai officials going after people for supposed lese majeste violations.
But Line is telling the government that it just can’t help out here.
“We do not monitor or block user content. User content is also encrypted, and cannot be viewed by LINE,” the statement sent to DPA said.