Interview with Jakrapob Penkair-Prachatai
July 17, 2012
[FACT comments: Frankly, we don’t have much truck with Jakrapob or his boss. They ain’t phrai, you know what I’m saying? But freedom of expression applies equally to all.]
Prachatai: July 17, 2012
Jakrapob Penkair, former minister under the Thaksin government and a red-shirt leader, has fled Thailand and been in exile after the Abhisit government’s first crackdown on the red-shirt movement in April 2009. He was interviewed by Prachatai’s special reporter on 31 May this year.
Is the lese majeste crime a tool to silence the opposition?
I think LM in Thailand has been put there as a custom of Thailand. It is not only a law but a norm and even more, it is now the main part of the culture. In that sense, LM is an off-limit issue that everyone should be aware of. This notion has grown out of his time and that is why it is so hard to campaign against it because it is like hitting yourself against a brick wall of culture.
What is the trend you see in the use of 2007 Computer Crimes Act and Article 112 of the Criminal Code (lese majeste)?
While in the past it was only applied to the famous ones or to the ones who should be seen as examples of others, arrests are now made on regular citizens showing that the application of LM is now crippling from setting an example to real prosecution. I think it is a trend that already happens in a partial way and will continue to grow. The LM framework covers not only the King but also the Queen and the successor and the regent.
I don’t think these laws would be amended or cancelled. To struggle against Article 112 and CCA has been the last indirect warfare between classes of people in Thailand. Without the struggle through these laws, the struggle might be more direct. And no one would know where it would lead. Actually, it is a good chance for the power to rethink what they have done with these laws.
What was your reaction when Somyot revealed that you were the author of the articles he is incarcerated for?
First, let me say that this case is an extreme injustice and I will support anything that would help to get him out of jail. And I feel fine that Somyot mentioned me under this principle to do anything I could do to help for I don’t think that the justice system in Thailand will really provide justice when it comes to lese-majeste. So, it does not matter what happens. If this would become an allegation against myself, when I return to the country, I would be delighted to fight it. No problem. I’d like Somyot and other detainees of lese-majeste to be out, including Surachai, including Da Torpedo and even the rest of them. There are plenty more.
Are you criticizing the King in these 2 articles?
I am not in the liberty to say whether or not I am writing about the monarchy in these articles. My main points are always the same: I like people to be empowered, and whether or not people know how to use this power properly… it’s up to them.
People would then learn from these right and wrong deeds and then they’ll start the debate. That’s the only way you constitute a country, a society, which is worthy of people to live. I do not believe in a society where there is an elitist supervising. I would be willing to let society make mistakes than to tell people what to do. My articles are along that line, always.
What do you risk if you go back?
I think they know now that the biggest enemies for them are thinkers. They have more money than us, they have more weapons than us, they have more personnel than us, they have more even scholars at the university than us, they have more journalists and media – I mean Thai-style – than us, they have more properties than us, there is nothing they could fear from us except the change of ideas and the change of thinking. So I think that a person like me has been considered a thinker – that’s how the security forces turned me in – presented to be having dangerous view. Even Abhisit himself, the opposition leader, accused me of “having a dangerous attitude” after my speech at FCCT. That has been used as a platform of many more activities against me eventually. In fact, I am discharged of this allegation so I think that the trend is that the LM is trying to hold people prisoners of conscience, even though they could not prove them to be guilty.