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Friday, July 3, 2009

The Economist on the Lese Majeste Craze

The Economist


Excerpt:

But the efforts of self-proclaimed royalists are arguably doing as much harm to the institution as criticism by their opponents. The justice minister, Pirapan Salirathavibhaga, for instance, has declared that his highest priority is the protection of the monarchy. So an elite law-enforcement agency in his ministry, which is supposed to take on drug kingpins and other crooks, is busy chasing lowly bloggers.


By persecuting Thais who give vent online, these moral guardians may be adding to the anger against Bangkok’s elite and, perhaps, fanning the flames of republicanism. Their zeal certainly undercuts Mr Abhisit’s feeble efforts to unite a polarised nation. Many observers conclude that the crown must be behind the crackdown. They think the royal family wants to keep a lid on frank discussion, at least until the 81-year-old King Bhumibol hands over to his likely successor, the unpopular crown prince, Maha Vajiralongkorn. Not so, insists a source in the palace, who blames an overzealous government for the spurt of arrests. King Bhumibol himself said in 2005 that he was not above criticism. He has also pardoned lèse majesté convicts, including Harry Nicolaides, an Australian author, in February.


Even in China, it is hard to control the internet (this week, the country delayed plans to put internet filtering software into every computer). And compared with China’s sophisticated controls, Thai censorship is Firewall 101. It uses keyword searches to turn up suspect websites. Wily netizens will no doubt stay a step ahead of the censors, using proxies and other tools, as they do in China and Myanmar. Meanwhile, the government’s efforts to protect the good name of the king are not only damaging democracy but may even rebound upon the royal reputation.


I only copied the last 3 paragraphs. Most of the story is just a run down of all the recent lese majeste cases.

Despite the Thai media's hatred for The Economist, it is by far the most prominent English news weekly in the world. Stories like this don't help Thailand's reputation at all. But the powers at be bring it upon themselves.

I am of the belief, like most sane people in the world, that arresting and prosecuting people for lese majeste is by far a bigger threat to Thailand's national security than the actual act of lese majeste itself.

In defending of the king, people are harming the king. Too bad they are too ignorant to see the obvious.

4 comments:

SFpics said...

I love the LM craze. It's hurting the palace more than a dozen crown prince scandals and an armed insurgency ever could. The palace has been a roadblock to democracy and a supporter of the worst dictators. Some people might suffering jail as a result, but you have to break some eggs to make khai jiao.

Rich said...

Nothing to do with HMK of course, he doesn't like this LM thing at all. He has often whispered in the ear of the PM of the day to cease and desist, and of course the PM of the day takes no notice at all of the King's wishes.

On the other hand, perhaps HMK likes it just the way it is. Three big advantages of course, he can use LM to show that he is not involved in anything as distasteful as politics, he can step in with a generous and gracious pardon (after a suitable period of course), and everyone continues to be scared shitless without it being anything at all to do with him.

Sweet.

Rich

The Bangkok Bugle said...

I think 'Thailand' understands what damage these articles does because two of the four editions that have not made it into the country this year have resulted in a subsequent letter to the editor from some 'official'.

Akbar Khan said...

I love LM because it give me the chance to appear important to act out my weird pathologies