Economist not distributed (again)-PPT

May 15, 2012

Political Prisoners in Thailand: May 11, 2012


Under the horrid Abhisit Vejjajiva regime of royalist repression, several issues of the Economist were not distributed in Thailand. Now under the lese majeste spinelessness of the Yingluck Shinawatra administration it has happened again.

Subscribers in Thailand have been told that they will not be get the issue dated 12 May 2012 because it contains copy on lese majeste. The article in question is:

The story is not controversial, but we assume that the distributor has declined to deliver it. Here it is:

Thailand’s lèse-majesté laws

An inconvenient death

A sad story of bad law, absurd sentences and political expediency

HIS only crime, allegedly, was to send four text messages to a government official about Thailand’s royal family. But they were deemed by a court to be offensive to the monarchy, and under the country’s strict and oppressive lèse-majesté laws Ampon Tangnoppakul was sentenced, in November, to 20 years in prison. The whole case, and especially the wildly inappropriate sentence, sparked an outcry, both in Thailand and abroad. Mr Ampon, a hitherto blameless and unrevolutionary 61-year-old, became known as “Uncle SMS”. He denied all charges, claiming that he did not even know how to send a text message.

On May 8th Mr Ampon died in a Bangkok prison hospital. He had been unwell, but the exact cause of his death has still to be determined [PPT: other media says liver cancer]. It has provoked renewed concern over the increasingly harsh application of the lèse-majesté laws, enshrined in Thailand’s criminal code and a newer Computer Crime Act. “Red shirt” activists, supporters of a former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a coup engineered by royalist generals in 2006, protested and delivered funeral wreaths to the hospital.

Some red shirts also express growing frustration on this issue with the present government, headed by Mr Thaksin’s younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. Red shirts helped her Pheu Thai party to a landslide victory in a general election last July, and were hoping to see the new government tone down, or even repeal, the lèse-majesté laws.

After all, as they see it these laws in the past have been used mainly against Thaksin supporters for partisan political purposes, including to snuff out opposition to the coup against Mr Thaksin. Indeed, before 2006 the lèse-majesté laws were used sparingly. Since then, however, the number of convictions has shot up, and the sentences have got harsher. Critics argue that these laws are not only anachronistic, but also widely abused. Designed to prevent insults against the monarchy, they are now used to curb freedom of speech in general, and to prevent criticism even of the royal bureaucracy and the constitution.

Ms Yingluck, however, has barely objected. She appears to want to appease the royal bureaucracy, embodied in the figure of General Prem Tinsulanonda, the head of the privy council, so as to smooth the way for the return to Thailand of her elder brother by the end of the year. Mr Thaksin has been living in self-imposed exile in order to avoid a prison term for corruption in his homeland. Meanwhile, Mr Ampon has died a lonely death in a prison hospital, and the country’s reputation is tarnished.

To be honest, there is nothing in this story at all that should cause the issue to be pulled. All of it has been said in Thai newspapers. Somebody associated with the newspaper has joined the absurdity associated with the law.


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