Please sign this open letter and ask others to sign. For more information, click HERE.
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Stop the use of lese majeste laws in Thailand. Defend freedom of speech
We, the undersigned, oppose the use of lese majeste in Thailand in order to prevent freedom of speech and academic freedom. We demand that the government cease all proceedings in lese majeste cases.
The September 19, 2006 military coup in Thailand claimed "Royal legitimacy" in order to hide the authoritarian intentions of the military junta. Lese majeste charges have not been used to protect "Thai Democracy under a Constitutional Monarchy" as claimed. The charges are used against people who criticised the coup and disagree with the present destruction of democracy. They are used to create a climate of fear and censorship.
One obvious case 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. (Read the book at http://wdpress.blog.co.uk/). 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 we 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.
Thailand's minister of justice has called for a blanket ban on reporting these cases in the Thai media. The mainstream Thai media are obliging. Thus we are seeing a medieval style witchhunt taking place in Thailand with "secret" trials in the courts. The Justice Ministry is also refusing to publish figures of lese majeste cases.
We call for the abolition of les majeste laws in Thailand and the defence of freedom and democracy.
Please send your full name to: Giles.LesseMajeste@gmail.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Academics, intellectuals and members of parliament from around the
world call for charges against Giles Ji Ungpakorn to be dropped
academics from U.K, Canada, France, South Africa, Ireland, Australia,
South Korea, Greece and the USA., including those from Oxford
University and SOAS London University, have signed an open letter
calling for charges of lese majeste, made against Giles Ji Ungpakorn,
to be dropped. Among those signing are also famous writers such as
Susan George and China Miéville. The list also includes members of
parliament from New Zealand and Britain.
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wish to express our deep concern at the decision of the Thai Police
Special Branch to prosecute Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn, of
the Political Science Faculty at Chulalongkorn University, with lèse
majesté – that is, with insulting King Bhumibol. Mr
Ungpakorn is a well-known commentator on Thai politics, widely quoted
in the international media. The charge arises from his book A Coup for the Rich,
published in 2007. In that book he criticized the coup of 19 September
2006, in which the military seized political power in Thailand. Mr
Ungpakorn argued that the army, along with the rest of the Thai
establishment, used the monarchy to legitimize its political
interventions. This is the kind of analysis that political scientists
make as a matter of course, but various bookshops withdrew A Coup for the Rich from circulation, forcing Mr Ungpakorn to make it available on the Internet.
his academic freedom and basic citizenship rights have come under much
more serious attack with this prosecution. Lèse majesté has fallen into
disuse in most of the world as a relic of the pre-democratic past.
Thailand is an exception. The Economist commented on 14 August
2008: 'The king said in 2005 that he could be criticised and was not
afraid of this. But those posing as his majesty's protectors
conveniently forget his words. So, despite their democratic
institutions, Thais are not free to debate matters regarding their head
of state, including appropriate limits on criticizing him.'
majesté carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, and MPs from the
government party headed by Abhisit Vejjajiva, which came to office
thanks to the connivance of the army, want to increase this to 25
years. The prosecution of Mr Ungpakorn therefore represents the most
fundamental attack on freedom of speech. We demand that the charges
against him are unconditionally withdrawn.
1. Dr. Geoff Abbott, Newcastle University
2. Professor Gilbert Achcar, School of Oriental and African Studies, London
3. Dr Talat Ahmed, Goldsmiths, University of London
4. Dr Kieran Allen, University Collhe Dublin
5. Dr Sam Ashman, University of East London
6. Dr Miryam Aouragh, University of Oxford/University of Amsterdam
7. Hans Baer, University of Melbourne 8. Professor Abigail Bakan, Queen's University, Canada
9. Chris Bambery, Editor, Socialist Worker
10. Colin Barker, Manchester Metropolitan University (Emeritus)
11. Dr John Baxter, Open University
12. Dr Tom Behan, University of Kent
13. Professor Jacques Bidet, University of Paris 10 – Nanterre (Emeritus)
14. Dr Sue Blackwell, University of Birmingham
15. Professor Luc Boltanski, École des hautes études en sciences sociales
16. Professor Patrick Bond, University of KwaZulu-Natal
17. Helen Bowman, Manchester Metropolitan University
18. Pat Brady, Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards
19. Professor Dennis Brutus, University of KwaZulu-Natal
20. Professor Alex Callinicos, King's College London
21. Dr David Camfield, University of Manitoba
22. Mark Campbell, London Metropolitan University, National Executive Committee, Universities and College Union
23. Dr Steve Cannon, University of Sunderland
24. Joe Carolan, Editor, Socialist Aotearoa, New Zealand
25. Agger Carsten, Denmark
26. Jim Casey, Vice President, Fire Brigade Employees Union, New South Wales
27. Dr. John Charlton
30. Professor Simon Clarke, University of Warwick
31. Paul Coates, President, University of Melbourne Graduate Student Association
32. Dr Alejandro Colas, Birkbeck College University of London
Political Prisoners in Thailand (PPT) is dedicated to those who are
held in Thailand’s prisons, charged with political crimes. It also
seeks to raise the cases of those who are accused of political crimes.
Our focus is the contemporary period where political cases revolve
around the use of Thailand’s lèse majesté law.
The authors of this blog are friends of Thailand who oppose the
jailing of opponents for political reasons and who support free speech.
Because this blog will include material that would be banned in
Thailand, we choose to remain anonymous.
While the blog does not function with comments, we welcome serious
additions to Political Prisoners in Thailand. This can only be done by
emailing email@example.com and
including your comments. Comments sent to us may be used on the blog.
They will be moderated and may be edited prior to posting.
Thailand has had a checkered political history since its first steps
towards democratic forms of government in 1932, when the absolute
monarchy was overthrown. Since that time, there have been numerous
cases of politically motivated arrests, jailings and murders.
Today, as Thailand’s politics has become more vigorous and divided,
arrests and imprisoning through accusations of lèse majesté have become
increasingly common. Lèse majesté is used by governments and political
figures to denounce opponents. We are deepening concerned and alarmed
regarding the political uses of lèse majesté in Thailand.
Specifically, we are deeply troubled by the vigorous pursuit of lèse
majesté cases by the recently constituted Democrat Party-led coalition
government. While the lèse majesté law has been criticized for many
years as “draconian,” the Democrat Party proposes to further strengthen
the law and accelerate on-going investigations and prosecutions of
those accused of lèse majesté. In recent weeks, the Democrat-led
government has indeed expanded its vigilance, blocked thousands of web
pages it considers offensive to the monarchy and presided over new
charges and arrests. Currently, the police claim that there are 17
active cases, dozens more accusations and, sadly, at least four persons
remain in jail following lèse majesté charges or convictions.
The persons involved – accused, charged and sentenced – are
journalists, bloggers, academics, authors and political and social
activists, both Thai and foreign. Some of those charged have been
denied bail and remain in prison for several months.
It is troubling that the current government, while pronouncing that
it favors a free press, political reconciliation and liberalism,
appears determined to crack down on those it considers are, in its
terms, threatening national security by criticizing the monarchy.
Various Thai governments make the point that the monarchy should be
untouchable as it is universally admired and revered by all Thais.
Clearly, given the need to expand vigilance regarding lèse majesté and
the Democrats own view that there are now 10,000 offending web pages
and that they are expanding exponentially, this claim of universal
reverence cannot carry weight. Recent political events and comments on
Thai-language blogs appear to confirm this.
For us, the actions of the Democrat-led government suggest a further
politicization of the lèse majesté law. In this context, we wish to
shine an international light on the political use of lèse majesté by
the government in Thailand. International scrutiny of these cases is
urgently required to ensure the protection of human rights and freedom