The dirty lèse-majesté law: a convenient tool for the junta

Numnual Yapparat & Giles Ji Ungpakorn

It is blatantly clear that lèse-majesté is a convenient club to beat those who disagree with the junta. The most recent victims of lèse-majesté are students who played in a political drama at the Thammasart University in 2013. The drama was part of the memorial event which took place to pay respects to the student movement in 1973 which spearheaded the overthrow of the military junta back then.

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Those arrested are Mr Butiwat Sarai-yam and Ms Porntip Munkong (“Golf”). It is intolerable in all aspects that the students were arrested because of their activities in a play on a university campus. We need collective action to fight against this brutality by the junta.

What can be done from outside Thailand? All Thai Studies academics who believe in free speech and democracy need to wake up and campaign against the junta’s use of lèse-majesté by writing protest letters to Thammasart University, the Thai authorities and local newspapers. Ask the Rector of Thammasart University, who is collaborating with the junta, whether he believes in academic freedom. This problem should be robustly discussed in international academic conferences which have Thai participation. In doing so, at least academics who support the junta can be exposed so that they have no place to stand in international stages. A boycott of any collaboration with Thai universities should be considered.

It is always better to write as a group of people rather than as a single individual.

If you are a union activist you can also write an open letter to raise your concerns and invite your colleagues to sign.

If you are involved with a human rights organisation, make sure that they take up this issue and campaign for the release of all those now in jail.

So many political prisoners are still in jail and they need our help.

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