The use of “Lese majeste” in Thailand against freedom of speech

Lese majeste literally means an offense or crime committed against the ruler or supreme power of a state – or, in other words, the crime of dissent. In Thailand, this provision is routinely used to silence any form of criticism of the government.

A recent case that has been brought to our attention is that of Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn, from the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University. He is facing Lese Majeste charges for writing a book A Coup for the Rich, which criticised the 2006 military coup. He also wrote an article on the coup for Asia Sentinel. Others who have been accused of Lese Majeste are former government minister Jakrapop Penkae, who asked a question at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club in Bangkok, about exactly what kind of Monarchy they have in Thailand. There is also the case of Chotisak Oonsung, a young student who failed to stand for the King’s anthem in the cinema. Apart from this there are the cases of Da Topedo and Boonyeun Prasertying. In addition to those who opposed the coup, the BBC correspondent Jonathan Head, an Australian writer names Harry Nicolaides and social critic Sulak Sivaraksa are also facing charges. The latest person to be thrown into jail and refused bail is Suwicha Takor, who is charged with Lese Majeste for surfing the internet. The Thai Minister of Justice has called for a blanket ban on reporting these cases in the Thai media. The mainstream Thai media are obliging. Thus there is a medieval style witch hunt taking place in Thailand with secret trials in the courts.

A petition of protest in support of Giles is available here.

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