Thai govt counters Giles in London-PPT

March 6, 2009

New: Opposing Giles Ungpakorn in London
Political Prisoners in Thailand: March 1, 2009

As PPT reported earlier, Giles Ji Ungpakorn recently spoke at SOAS in London on the topic “Lese majeste in Thailand: Why it destroys democracy.” Now the conservative Samaggi Samagom is claiming to be doing its duty and defending the monarchy and lèse majesté.  Samaggi Samagom is the Thai Association in the U.K., established in 1901 by the Anglophile King Vajiravudh.

In addition to sponsoring a “Special Academic Forum” on “His Majesty the King and the Development (พระมหากษัตริย์และการพัฒนา)” by Dr. Tej Bunnag, a former Thai Foreign Minister and palace insider, it has advertised a “Special Academic Forum” on “The Importance of the Monarchy to Thailand’s Democratic Development (ความสำคัญของพระมหากษัตริย์ต่อการพัฒนาประชาธิปไตยไทย), also by the palace’s Tej Bunnag.

With the “honourary guests” listed as H.E. Ambassador Mr. Kitti Wasinond and M.L. Patcharapakorn Devakula (Minister Counselor for Education) from the Royal Thai Embassy in London, questions may be raised about the forum’s real nature. Helpfully, Samaggi Samagom explains that the forum is in “response to Associate Professor Giles Ungpakorn’s talk in London.” It  explains that “there is a need to propose a different view for a greater understanding of the role of the much revered Thai monarch. Samaggi Samagom under Royal Patronage feels it is a duty to organise such event where Thai students in the UK in particular can be offered the opportunity to hear a view contrary to the controversial ’socialist’ and ‘republican’ standpoint.”

While the association states that the event is open and that there will be free discussion, only “open-minded foreigner guests” may join and the media is not permitted. The restriction on the media is said to be to foster “discussion and expression.” With the Ambassador and Minister Counselor for Education present, this discussion is unlikely to be unbridled for Thais who remain under the watchful eye of embassy officials. Samaggi Samagom even suggests topics for discussion:

“- A clarification on the history of Thailand, its monarchy and relationship to its people.
– The relationship of the monarch to a modern society and democracy, and its importance.
– A clarification on the King’s suggestion of ’sufficiency economy’ (in response to Giles’ criticism) and the relevance of this suggestion to the development of Thailand.”

Download the announcement here: samaggi_samagom_special_academic_forum

In response, Giles Ungpakorn has issued an Open Letter to Thai Embassy in London:

“I am happy that the Thai Ambassador is taking a keen interest in public discussions concerning the Thai political situation. His talk at Sammagi Samakom shows this. Therefore may I suggest as a next step that the Ambassador and I debate the issue of Thai Democracy publicly sometime in April. We can ensure a neutral chair person. I hope that the Ambassador will agree to this public debate in a spirit of open-minded academic freedom.

Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn,1 March 2009


ผม ยินดีที่สถานทูตไทยพร้อมจะแสดงจุดยืนทางการเมืองที่แตกต่างจากจุดยืนผม และผมยินดีที่มีการจัดประชุมที่สามัคคีสมาคมเพื่อให้ทูตไทยแสดงความเห็นของ ฝ่ายรัฐบาล

เพื่อพัฒนาการแลกเปลี่ยนและ การใช้ปัญญาต่อไป ผมจึงขอเชิญทูตไทยประจำลอนดอน ร่วมโต้วาทีวิชาการ สองต่อสอง กับผมในเวทีสาธารณะ เรื่องปัญหาประชาธิปไตยไทย โดยมีผู้ดำเนินการที่เป็นกลาง อาจจัดที่ลอนดอนในเดือนเมษายน

หวังว่าจะมีการตอบรับมาจากสถานทูต เพื่อแสดงความจริงใจและความเปิดกว้างทางวิชาการ

.. ใจ อึ๊งภากรณ์

มีนาคม ๒๕๕๒

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