Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Red Siam Manifesto

From the Guardian UK: British professor flees Thailand after charge of insulting king

A leading Bangkok-based professor who has joint British and Thai nationality fled Thailand at the weekend in the face of a lengthy sentence under the country's draconian lese-majesty laws, which forbid criticism of the king.
"I did not believe I would receive a fair trial," said Ungpakorn

He said that the charges arose out of eight paragraphs in the first chapter deemed insulting to King Bhumibol. He claimed that the director of a university bookshop stocking his book had informed the special branch that it "insulted the monarchy". The offending paragraphs deal with incidents around the coup.

"It is clear that the charge is really about preventing any discussion about the relationship between the military junta and the monarchy," Ungpakorn said. "This is in order to protect the military's sole claim to legitimacy: that it acted in the interests of the monarchy."

As was the case of Harry Nicolaides, it is not a matter of a free trail but an attempt to stifle discussion on the monarchy.

But Professor Giles has gone much, much further. He has now released the "Red Siam Manifesto" and its now not just a matter of lese majeste but a call for revolution.

The contents, which I will not link to because of my own genuine fear of lese majeste, can now be found all over the internet in both English and Thai.

As we all know, the consequences draconian laws that stifle usually result in increased attention and readership of offending writings. This, of course, has the opposite result of what the authorities want - increased readership of lese majeste writings.

But there are two much more serious implications this time.

The first is that the international press is reporting that a prominent academic has fled Thailand claiming political repression. Thailand's increasingly ugly international reputation is seemingly in free fall.

The next, and much more serious, is that repression has resulted in a call to resistance. And for a nation which genuinely loves the King, it is simply stunning.

And this is the true failing of lese majesty, because it is a tool most often employed by shady politicians, it has backfired and has sown the seeds of dissent.

This conflict is going to going to be nasty.

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