Lèse-majesté? Thai Journalist Jailed for Insulting The King
Speaking of Freedom of Speech, if most of you are done criticizing China’s draconian policies of magically getting rid of any dissenting journalist in an over night operation, here is something which can sink your democratic teeth into. No, we are not talking about Kate Middleton having yellow teeth photo-shopped on her magazine photo to poke fun at her true British royal decadence in getting expensive teeth whitening procedures. This time the offended ‘His Majesty’ is the Thai King and his family who has allegedly been insulted earlier this week by the fiction tainted rants of one ambitious Thai journalist.
The unlucky journalist, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk was found guilty of publishing articles defaming King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2010 when he was editor of a magazine. The article features a fictitious monarch, which is somehow a representative of the King and criticizes him. The laws perceive this as an illegal act as in Thailand the role of the monarchy is forbidden. The journalist was slammed with a ten-year custodial sentence for failing to check that these articles he published defamed the king and his family. He is accused of deliberately publishing such content.
thai-journalistThe offensive article itself spoke about amending the Lèse-majesté laws of Thailand to bring them more in line with the constitutional guarantees of freedom and human rights. The law has been labeled as anti-democratic and the sentence on the journalist is not the first causality under the draconian Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code on the anti-democratic charge of lese majesty or insulting the country’s monarchy. The actual author of the articles was the now-exiled Jakrapob Penkair, supporter of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006. The offensive material in the articles was the reference to the eighteenth century Chakri Dynasty after the death of King Taskin.
The way he has been denied bail more than 12 times since his arrest in 2011, is being seen as a setback to the efforts for securing protection and promotion of human rights in Thailand. This is also being seems as a rather disturbing trend where lese majesty laws are being used for personal vendetta. In its defence the court said that it was only upholding the traditional Thai respect for the Thai Culture due to its perceived role as a dispute diffuser in the past during times of severe political crises.
Critics however think that the King’s role as a neutral arbiter was seriously compromised by the monarchy’s partisan support for opponents of the ex Prime Minister Thaksin during the protracted political turmoil that led up to and followed his ousting in September 2006.It seems that the free speech epidemic is unlikely to be accepted too soon in this jurisdiction, any time soon!