Justice Minister and lese-majeste : “freedom of speech is like your shoes at the airport”

We know that the new government vows to make lese-majeste a top priority.

It has been said by the IT Minister, Abhisit the Prime Minister, and the Justice Minister. It has been said in the thai medias and in the international press too.

So this campaign is more than a “local one”. And this is is precisely why it’s dangerous.

The thai government is apparently not afraid to ridicule itself on the international scene with this obsessive compulsive political disorder. And to multiply the cases (for instance, there is a third (!!!) pending case against J.Head, the BBC journalist, plus a new case against Giles, the thai academics).

Thailand’s new justice minister vowed yesterday to toughen controversial laws protecting the monarchy and crack down on unprecedented levels of criticism of the palace stemming from recent political turmoil.

Pirapan Salirathavibhaga, a former judge, said protecting the nation’s “most revered institution” was his top priority, adding that he would enlist the help of the army to suppress alleged anti-royal activities.

“In Thailand, the monarchy is not only a symbolic institution. It is the pillar of national security,” he said in an interview. “Whatever is deemed as affecting the monarchy must be treated as a threat to national security,” said Pirapan, who has a US Masters degree in law. […]

The administration has already announced plans to add 400 Web pages to 2,300 already blocked for lese-majeste, or insulting the monarchy, a crime that carries up to 15 years in prison in Thailand, where many regard the king as semi-divine.

Freedom of speech is enshrined in the constitution but Pirapan said that did not mean criticism of the monarchy amounting to a threat to national security would be tolerated. “When you visit the United States, your rights have been infringed when you have to take your shoes or your belt off for an airport security check. That is done for the sake of national security,” Pirapan said.

In Thailand, your freedom of speech might have to be compromised for the sake of national security,” he said. (Reuters)

To my knowledge, it’s the first time a direct link is made between the monarchy and “national security“. It’s a very interesting conceptual development.

But it’s astonishing to see the Justice Minister, with a so called US master degree in law, making such comments.

Thai politicians are fascinated by rethoric and other syllogisms. They believe it’s powerful enough to subdue the masses.

Even a high-schooler could answer Pirapan that it’s an intellectual fraud to put on the same level freedom of speech and the fact of removing shoes for airport security screening !

It’s by essence a false comparison.

When the public debate reaches such low levels, then I think all hope is gone.

1 Response to “Justice Minister and lese-majeste : “freedom of speech is like your shoes at the airport””

  1. 1 Ty 14 January 2009 at 12:47 am

    Tying lese majeste to national security will enable whitewashing the actions of the PAD, i.e., while the PAD’s actions were illegal, since they were committed for the sake of national security, this motive trumps other considerations. In other words, they did the wrong things for the right reasons and therefore should be granted amnesty. By the same token, those who call for a review of lese majeste are threats to national security and should be punished.

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Thailand Crisis

Coup, Economic slowdown, Terror In the South... The situation is worsening in Thailand. Bumpy road like often before.

But this time, it's different.

The key to understand the present turmoil is the inevitable... succession of King Bhumibol.

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