Will the King smile on Harry?

February 3, 2009

CJ Hinke of FACT comments:

I found these two 2008 threads on New Mandala (http://rspas.anu.edu.au/rmap/newmandala/) to be fascinating reading. (Don’t know how we missed them!)

The first is an interview with Paul Handley, author of the notorious banned book, The King Never Smiles (http://rspas.anu.edu.au/rmap/newmandala/2007/09/19/interview-with-paul-handley/). Comments are by Thais in Thailand, Thai and Western academics in the field of Thai studies, expatriate Thais and foreign academics and observers living in Thailand and abroad.

The comments are a liberal mixture of fact, opinion, speculation, gossip and innuendo about the Thai monarchy. The second thread continues with further comments by both Thais and foreigners with the author’s responces (http://rspas.anu.edu.au/rmap/newmandala/2007/09/28/paul-handley-replies-to-comments/).

The most fascinating item was, for me, a hallmark of Royal myth which, repeated so often, has come to be regarded as truth.

We have all heard that His Majesty pardoned Swiss national Oliver Rudolf Jufer following his conviction and sentence to ten years in prison for lèse-majesté in 2007. While drunk, Jufer, a resident of Chiang Mai for 10 years with his Thai family, defaced public portraits of the King by spray-painting on the King’s birthday. This was obviously a case of drunken vandalism which may, or may not, have really been directed at the King and be merely vandalism due to drunkeness or mental illness.

A poster to this thread has commented that the Swiss Embassy petitioned the King with official information that Jufer was mentally ill which resulted in Royal pardon and deportation. (We have no further information on what has become of his Thai family.)

Perhaps because the Jufer case is so recent, most people in Thailand now believe it is the King’s normal practice to pardon all those convicted of lèse-majesté. Certainly to do so would be a clear message that His Majesty does not support the lèse-majesté laws and their flagrant application.

This rumour has been repeated so many times (I have been guilty of spreading it myself on FACTsite) that it has been given the ring of truth about Royal compassion. Perhaps it is what we want, or need, to believe.

However, the poster goes on to say that the King has never pardoned anyone else, Thai or foreigner, serving a lèse-majesté sentence.

In short, we don’t know what to believe.

Harry Nicolaides, an Australian author serving a three year sentence for lèse-majesté. has been characterised as hapless or naive. It is incontrovertible fact that Harry’s 103-word paragraph in a novel was not meant to insult the Crown Prince. The paragraph and the entire self-published book, Verisimiltude, are commonly available, including on public shelves in Thailand’s National Library, should you wish to read them.

The Thai Justice Minister has recently gone on public record to state that those who unintentionally disparage the monarchy (in the eyes of police or bureaucrats) are specifically not to be charged.

So how did Harry Nicolaides slip through the cracks? Mr. Minister, why is Harry serving three years?

Will the King pardon Harry when there is no Royal precedent to do so? Will His Majesty pardon all those Thais and foreigners now facing wholesale charges of lèse-majesté?

If readers have facts regarding the practice of Royal pardons for lèse-majesté, FACT would be grateful to know of them, anonymously if you like.

Regardless of your opinion about The King Never Smiles, we know you haven’t read it yet! It has its flaws, as does all academic research, but is a groundbreaking effort at understanding Thai monarchy and is to be applauded.

The King Never Smiles is commonly available in both English and Thai translation. FACT supports freedom of information.

We challenge citizens to be fully-informed. We challenge our readers to read The King Never Smiles.

3 Responses to “Will the King smile on Harry?”

  1. Some selections from the 2007 Thai constitution.
    For those interested as well, feel free to view my YouTube coverage on lese majeste and other Thailand-based issues by searching on YouTube for franganderson

    It is interesting to see in the following that the Thailand-based NHRC is supposedly empowered to call anyone – there are no exceptions listed here, but presumably other constitutional provisions preclude certain personages from being called up to answer why Harry got the shaft.

    Some outstanding parts of the 2007 Thai Constitution:

    Section 14. A Privy Councilor shall not be a member of the House of Representatives, senator, Election Commissioner, Ombudsman, a member of the National Human Rights Commission…
    Thus it appears that no Privy Councilor is bound by loyalty to a formal human rights regime.

    Section 82. The State shall promote friendly relations with other countries and adopt the principle of non-discrimination and shall comply with human rights conventions in which Thailand is a party thereto as well as international obligations concluded with other countries and international organizations.
    So Thailand IS obligated to comply, but is it meeting its obligations?

    2. The National Human Rights Commission

    Section 256. The National Human Rights Commission consists of a President and six other members appointed, by the King with the advice of the Senate, from the persons having apparent knowledge and experiences in the protection of rights and liberties of the people with due regard to the participation of representatives from private organizations in the field of human rights.

    The President of the Senate shall countersign the Royal Command appointing the President and members of the National Human Rights Commission.

    The qualifications, prohibitions, selection, election, removal and determination of the remuneration of members of the National Human Rights Commission shall be as provided by law.

    The members of the National Human Rights Commission shall hold office for a term of six years as from the date of their appointment by the King and shall serve for only one term.

    The provisions of section 204 paragraph three, section 206, section 207 and section 209 (2) shall apply mutatis mutandis, provided that the composition of the Selective Committee shall be in accordance with section 243.

    There shall be the Office of the National Human Rights Commission being an agency having autonomy in its personnel administration, budget and other activities as provided by law.

    Section 257. The National Human Rights Commission has the powers and duties as follows:

    (1) to examine and report the commission or omission of acts which violate human rights or which do not comply with obligations under international treaties to which Thailand is a party, and propose appropriate remedial measures to the person or agency committing or omitting such acts for taking action. In the case where it appears that no action has been taken as proposed, the Commission shall report to the National Assembly for further proceeding;

    (2) to submit the case together with opinions to the Constitutional Court in the case where the Commission agrees with the complainant that the provisions of any law are detrimental to human rights and beg the question of the constitutionality as provided by the organic law on rules and procedure of the Constitutional Court;

    (3) to submit the case together with opinions to the Administrative Courts in the case where the Commission agrees with the complainant that any rule, order or administrative act is detrimental to human rights and begs the question of the constitutionality and legality as provided by the law on establishment of Administrative Courts and Administrative Court Procedure;

    (4) to bring the case to the Courts of Justice for the injured person upon request of such person if it deems appropriate for the resolution of human rights violation problem as a whole as provided by law;

    (5) to propose to the National Assembly and the Council of Ministers policies and recommendations with regard to the revision of laws, rules or regulations for the promotion and protection of human rights;

    (6) to promote education, researches and the dissemination of knowledge on human rights;

    (7) to promote co-operation and co-ordination among government agencies, private organizations and other organizations in the field of human rights;

    (8) to prepare an annual report for the appraisal of situations in the sphere of human rights in the country and submit it to the National Assembly;

    (9) other powers and duties as provided by law.

    In the performance of duties of the National Human Rights Commission, regard shall be had to interests of the country and the public.

    The National Human Rights Commission has the power to demand relevant documents or evidence from any person or summon any person to give statements of fact including other powers for the purpose of performing its duties as provided by law.

  2. ‘Regardless of your opinion about The King Never Smiles, we know you haven’t read it yet!’

    But how did you know?

    Frankly the various assertions about HM King Bhumipol’s character not only do not appeal to me but miss the point, I believe.

    I believe the Thai monarch is very circumscribed in the actions he may take or not in any case. In fact the monarch’s most salient feature at this point is his service, wily nily, as the focal point for prosecutions for lèse majesté.

    The monarch provides the lever used by the “monarchists” to smite their foes. His position is similar to “the Lord” or “the Bible” in the hands of fundamentalist of the the Judaeo-Christian-Muslim tradition. Once invoked the King, the Lord, the Bible suffers no appeal. They are all absolute in their authority, according to their fundamentalist usurpers, the Xtian Teleban, the Jewish Taleban, the Muslim Taleban, and in this case the Thai monarchist Taleban.

    I am sixty-one and HM King Bhumipol Adulyadej had been King for a year when I was born. Most Thais, most people, know no other King of Thailand. And I have a decent respect and sympathy for HM King Bhumipol Adulyadej not only because he seems to me to be a decent man, earnestly concerned for the whole of his reign with the very things that concern most of his subjects, but also because he has come to embody the aspirations of the majority of his subjects. They all know that he is human. That is what makes him so appealing to them and beloved by them. He has done his job day in and day out for the whole of their lives and he has a good heart. Contrast HM King Bhumipol Adulyadej within anyone else who has held power in Thailand over the course of his reign and you will, as the Thai people do, make allowances for whatever decisions he has made that turned out to be less than optimal. He has a good heart, in their and my opinion.

    And he is not the man who pulls the levers of power behind the scenes. Please remember that the memory most recently burned into his mind when the 18 year-old Bhumipol Adulyadej ascended the throne was the murder of his brother, King Ananda.

    Before I was the King, I regretted many times but after I became the King, the Thai King, which foreigners call the King, I understand that I hardly do wrong because I am careful.

    If I am not careful, I would have died.

    Must be careful, if not then I would die.

    This is natural for politics or for being in the public eye. The public eye can kill.

    If we are not careful, we die.

    That is why I said the King can do no wrong because it must be “do no wrong’’ because to do wrong is to die.

    It is the same for everyone. It is not that the King is competent but everyone is also able. They have positions, high positions, receive decorations.

    People said this person is in a very high place, has high rank. The King has a high rank, but people who are here also hold high ranks, if you are not careful, you also die.

    Do not think that this or that person will die if they are not careful. Every one, from the first row to the last row and even outside. Everyone that is not careful faces dangers.

    To me the idea HM the King could eliminate the lèse majesté laws in an instant is ludicrous. Yet that is the opinion I read again and again in the comments at The Economist, for instance.

    The concept of the scapegoat is ancient indeed. More ancient, perhaps, than the concept of Kings. [T]his goat, carrying the sins of the people placed on it, is sent away to perish, the word “scapegoat” has come to mean a person, often innocent, who is blamed and punished for the sins, crimes, or sufferings of others, generally as a way of distracting attention from the real causes.

    So I you are right. I am uninterested in reading Paul M Hanley’s. Life is short and there are so many things to read.

  3. […] there to suffer, and then granted a royal pardon. The Judiciary are soooo busy right now. Will the King smile on Harry? 03-02-09 CJ Hinke of FACT comments: I found these two 2008 threads on New Mandala […]

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