Tag Archives: lèse majesté law

Repression, Nationalism, Racism & anti-women: Thailand’s Parliamentary Dictatorship

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

It is difficult to spot the difference between one year ago under the rule of the military junta, and today under the rule of the military Parliamentary Dictatorship. In fact the only difference is that after the fixed elections earlier this year, the junta is using parliament as a fig-leaf for the continued dictatorship.


Following the brilliant ant-junta protests a week ago, the police have filed charges against the organisers of the peaceful and legitimate protests in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. This is yet another example of the continued repression against the right to protest. It is hoped that any prosecutions will be met with an escalation of action on the streets.


To prove who is really in charge, the Ministry of Defence has come out and condemned these pro-democracy protests. This again highlights the militarisation of Thai society and politics which has been going on since the 2014 coup.


Added to this is the ridiculous accusations of lèse majesté by ultra-conservatives against people posting pictures of the protests with posters of the dead king in the background. These anti-democratic dinosaurs wish to make previous monarchs into holy relics. Yet, the individual most responsible for bringing the institution of the monarchy into disrepute, in the eyes of Thai citizens, is the present king Wachiralongkorn.


This is due to his debauched life-style in Germany, his insulting behaviour towards women and his never-ending greed. This is why the Thai ruling class need to keep putting up posters of his dead father in their desperate attempt to prop up royalism.

The junta is trying to stir up racism and nationalism to deflect attention away from the lack of democracy and the deteriorating standard of living for most Thais. The Parliamentary Junta’s aristocratic Minister of Labour has been mouthing off about the need to arrest so-called illegal migrants who he accuses of “stealing jobs from Thais”. This is an age-old process of racist scape-goating. It is never true. Migrant workers fill low income and dirty-job niches vacated by locals. The Thai economy would be in a serious state without migrant workers.

Rescuers carry body of civilian killed by military rangers

In Patani, the hated military rangers have murdered three innocent civilians in the province of Naratiwat. The rangers planted weapons and ammunition around the corpses and tried unsuccessfully to claim that those killed were insurgents. Eventually the military were forced to admit this and issued an “apology”. But that is not good enough. The rangers are hated and feared by local Malay Muslims for their trigger-happy and racist behaviour. The situation is made worse by having a military national government and by the deep racism and nationalism supported by the Thai ruling class. Peace can only be achieved if the military are forced to withdraw from Patani and national politics and citizens are able to exercise self-determination.

Thailand is one of the most unequal societies in the world. This is due to the monopoly of power by the conservative elites. Yet the present military government has defined women’s sanitary towels as “luxury” items for tax purposes. Women’s sanitary products are more expensive in relation to Thai incomes than in Western societies. This injustice has quite rightly caused a storm of indignation on social media. Sanitary products for women should be supplied free of charge as a necessary service to all women. They are not things that women can choose to buy or not to buy.


As we turn the corner to 2020, it is to be hoped that the level of protests against the Parliamentary Junta will increase and the military will be forced out of politics. For that to happen it will take organisation.



lèse majesté stifles debate and analysis of the crisis

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The recent attempts to charge the red shirt local radio DJ “Kotee” under the lèse majesté law for claiming in a VICE news documentary that a “higher force” was controlling Sutep’s mob, goes to the heart of problems created by lèse majesté. It is my view that Kotee is mistaken in his understanding of the situation, but the use of the draconian lèse majesté law closes down all sensible discussion about the Thai political crisis within Thai society. Anyone trying to argue details about the various ruling class power groups seeking to destroy Thai democracy immediately runs the risk of being charged under lèse majesté. I was charged with lèse majesté for writing a book which opposed the 2006 military coup. The Lawyers Council of Thailand has just taken matters to a new dangerous extreme by accusing the Red Shirt lawyer Robert Amsterdam of lèse majesté for urging reform of the lèse majesté law! This is in the same vein as the ruling by the Constitutional Court that it was “illegal” for an elected parliament to seek to change the constitution and make all senate seats subject to democratic elections.

Open debate and analysis about the political crisis, which involves putting forward theories supported by evidence, in order that others can critique such ideas, is blocked.  As a result people are reduced to discussing rumours and conspiracy theories and making indirect allusions to powerful and absolutist forces which are supposedly controlling Thai society. Whose interests are served by this?

The 2006 military coup against Taksin Shinawat’s elected government was staged by soldiers wearing yellow royalist arm bands. Photos of the generals talking to the monarch were widely publicised. The initial military junta also called itself the “Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy”. There was a crude message in all this. The military has a long history of seeking royalist legitimacy for its destruction of democracy. It is in the military’s interests to stifle any discussion about the appropriateness or truth of these claims to legitimacy. The same can be said for the Yellow Shirts and Sutep’s mob today. Given the grey area covering the roles of the elites, many ordinary people could be forgiven for mistakenly thinking along the same lines as Kotee.

Allusions to unnamed, powerful and absolutist forces which are supposedly controlling Thai society is also beneficial to the conservative elites because it is a message that implies that resistance is pointless. It is also a message that lets the military off the hook. Conversely this also benefits Taksin, Yingluk and Pua Thai because it is such a convenient excuse to hold back on any real change, move towards a grubby compromise with the anti-democrats and calm down the more impatient Red Shirts. This has been the aim of Pua Thai since the election victory of 2011.

Yingluk and Pua Thai’s demands that Kotee be arrested and their continuing support for the lèse majesté law is also useful in countering the conservatives’ ridiculous accusations that Taksin is some kind of “republican”, when in fact he shares the conservatives’ views on the monarchy. Monarchies in Western Europe are useful in supporting the ideology that there is a “natural hierarchy” even in a capitalist democratic society.

Any meaningful democratic reform of Thai society needs to include the removal of the lèse majesté law and the release of political prisoners like Somyot Pruksakasemsuk or Da Torpedo.