Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another Case of Lèse Majesté

Least we find ourselves getting upset only over the case of a foreign writer ending up in a Thai jail, you might like to consider the case of Thai academic Giles Ji Ungpakorn who yesterday was informed that he is being charged with lèse majesté (and faces a maximum of 15 years in jail) because of 8 paragraphs in Chapter 1 of his book A Coup for the Rich. (The book is banned in Thailand but can be read here on PDF.)

Go read the eight paragraphs which can be found on his blog. This is legitimate political discussion, is it not, of the kind you must be able to debate in your own country? Take another look at Article 19 the UN's Declaration of Human Rights if you have any hesitation in answering that question!

In an email that I just received from Giles, he says that it was the Director of Chulalongkorn University bookshop who decided to inform Special Branch that his book "insulted the Monarchy". :
The bookshop is managed by the academic management of the university. So much for academic freedom!
It looks like the present regime is concerned with creating a climate of fear in which no dissent can be brooked, and is using the royal shield of lèse majesté to legitimise that oppression.

If you feel moved to action :

1. Write a letter of protest/concern to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Government House, Bangkok, Thailand. Fax number +66 (0) 29727751

2. Write a letter of protest/concern to the Ambassador, The Royal Thai Embassy, in your country.

3. Demand that Amnesty International take up all lèse-majesté cases in Thailand.

4. Demand the abolition of the lèse-majesté law.


Anonymous said...

haiya, Puan Bakar, there is a HUGE difference between this case and that other one lah! don't lump them together.

You Knowlah Who

bibliobibuli said...

same bloody law, what?

dreamer idiot said...

Having read the offending paragraphs, I can see how he got into trouble, but the points he raise are sensible and honest. It's just terrible.

I recall when I was a student in uni, political science lecturers get called up for interview by the police. The silencing of political debate leads only to abuse.

Anonymous said...

No, I agree, whether or not there's a difference between the intentions of these two writers, it's the law that's a problem, and it's the spirit of the law, the whole idea *behind* the law, that we need to challenge; fighting individual cases only fixes the problem temporarily.

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

No country/blog/family really has free speech. There are always limits, the only difference is where the boundaries are. Let's consider the example of this blog. You recently removed someone who issued a death threat. Now according to the laws of this country, this is a crime. I'm sure you removed it because if not you could be considered an accessory to a crime.

The thing is though, if it wasn't a crime, would you have removed it? after all, the person who posted it had the right to hold that opinion and express it freely, despite the fact that some people found it offensive, did he not?

If you're thinking "I would have removed it anyway" then you have proven that you don't support free speech, it's just that your boundaries are different from the those of the Thai government.

What right has anyone got to demand things of a sovereign country ?

If he really wanted to do stuff he'd have just posted it online. The fact that he published a book makes me think he was asking for it, and is using the publicity to try and sell the book.

He's just after the money, otherwise why sell a book? why not give it away free? why not photocopy (or scan and print) a few hundred (or a few thousand) copies of it and distribute them?

bibliobibuli said...

yes, we make what we call editorial choices. every publisher / editor in whatever forum does this.

(my choice to remove that comment was based on anger - we bloggers shouldn't let idiots use us and yes i do believe it is the kind of comment that the police and other authorities should take seriously because it was inciting violence against foreigners.)

with blogs, though, it's different because you are entitled to have your blog and write whatever you like and so the conversation can ping and pong about in cyberspaces, and we can chose to engage in argument or ignore each other. you have a right to claim the space for your voice even if it isn't on my blog.

i will continue to take off comments i feel are particularly hurtful, though over the years that hasn't amounted to very many.

there isn't a society where there aren't limits of some kind somewhere but in thailand the limits are so tight that even the bbc faces charges for reporting the incident and journalists can't write about this for fear of being imprisoned themselves!!

it is important that we constantly debate where the limits are in publishing and defend freedom of speech where we can.

Anonymous said...

I really don't think the waters are so muddy as Anonymous makes them out to be here. There's a clear difference between *nonfictional* hate speech -- i.e. an attempt to incite real-life violence -- and anything that happens in a novel or a film, first of all. Secondly, alleged "disrespect" to a monarch or a religion does not constitute incitement to kill the monarch or the followers of that religion.

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

Bib -

Allow me to paraphrase your post :

The Thai government could have said this :

yes, we make what we call government decisions. every government/ruler in whatever country does this.

(my choice to prosecute him was based on anger - we rulers shouldn't let idiots use us and yes i do believe it is the kind of comment that the police and other authorities should take seriously because it was inciting violence against the ruler.)

"with blogs, though, it's different"

I beg to differ. I think it's exactly the same :)

To continue :

because you are entitled to have your own country and do whatever you like and so the conversation can ping and pong about in the world, and we can chose to engage in argument or ignore each other. you have a right to claim the space for your own even if it isn't in my country.

Did you know anyone can claim any unclaimed land in this world for their own? the fact that there's probably no land left to claim doesn't change that fact.

"the bbc faces charges for reporting the incident and journalists can't write about this for fear of being imprisoned themselves!!"

They can visit the country, take notes, and then go back to the UK and write them? it's not as if the Thai government can arrest a foreign national writing (and publishing) in his own country can they?

Preeta -

You say it doesn't, they say it does. Your opinion is as valid as theirs, and they are the ones that are running the country.

Anyway, it was never about fiction/non-fiction, it was about free speech and whether or not it's infeasible.

Anonymous said...

while i agree that comments inciting violence, race hate, etc, should be removed, i am in agreement with Anon. s/he has a point.

the issue of freedom of speech is always all or nothing. there is no such thing as "i believe in free speech but this is my blog and i can choose to delete your comments if i feel like it."

nope, it doesn't work that way. if you propagate free speech, then you should be ready for the consequences, ie. idiotic comments, angry comments, disagreements, arguments, etc.

FREE SPEECH's ultimate goal is to inspire discussion.

there are many idiots who come to my blog and leave comments about hating me and what i write. there are also those who flame each other, or get into personal attacks. but i don't delete them, as long as they don't break the law and take me with them.

Yoo Noe Huu

Anonymous said...

The trouble is that such commenters just go round in circles and take us further and further from the issue being discussed, in love with the sound of their own voices, without achieving anything meaningful. Yoo Noe Huu and Anonymous (if it is the same guy) are the most boring old farts one could hope to meet on a blog. I reckon they are really the same person.

If I were you Sharon, I'd wipe them off completely. A blog is a personal thing and you alone make the decision about which comments go and which stay. You are pretty generous about allowing comments in the first place.

Santa Claus

Anonymous said...

Tsk, not only are these idiots boring, they also lack basic reasoning skills and reading comprehension. No difference between fiction and non-fiction in these cases?!? Oh dear oh dear. Let me show you the difference: should Nabokov have been thrown in jail for writing a FICTIONAL account of pedophilia? No, because a fictional account does not constitute endorsement.

On the other hand, if I were to write a newspaper article (or a blog comment) exhorting people to sleep with thirteen-year-old girls,
well, AHEM.

The examples are endless: should DBC Pierre have been thrown in jail for writing fiction from the point of view of a school shooter? Should Shakespeare have been tried for murder for writing Macbeth? Was Flaubert guilty of adultery when he wrote Madame Bovary?

Oh, and the most famous one: should Rushdie have been threatened with execution for creating FICTIONAL characters who had supposedly un-Islamic FICTIONAL dreams?

The inability to differentiate between fiction and the actual opinions of the author is both juvenile -- I think many ten-year-olds would be able to tell the difference -- and dangerous.

As for "your opinion counts as much as theirs, and they are the ones running the country" -- well, YEAH. That's the problem. But history is full of examples of governments that have been made to change the way they run their countries. If humanity had sat on its collective arse and done nothing, Anonymous, the Magna Carta would never have been signed.

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

dang!...i thought of keeping my mouth shut...but fuck case of rushdie,he certainly should advise is, if you're a non muslim and don't know islamic world view , stay away from it....but i'm not going this road again...too tired of the same arguments already lor...

lets not fight...gong xi fa chai everybody... i love you all... the idiots and those who think they are not, included...

ah pong

Anonymous said...

Gong Xi Fa Cai to everybody, yes.

I just wanted to confess here that I'm actually a member of the Sky Kingdom cult and I hereby declare that any authors that include teapots in disrespectful ways in their novels should be murdered in their beds. If you're not a member of the cult and you don't understand the importance of teapots, stay away from this topic, please.

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

sky kingdom is wellcome to have it's own world views... and if they screw us muslims be prepared to pay for it too..

for you see, we muslims are terrorists, and it's written that we must kill stupid writers...

enough la preeta...

ah pong

Anonymous said...

Ah Pong: I'm just trying to get you -- and others -- to see that as strongly as you might believe in one thing, someone else might believe JUST AS STRONGLY in the opposite thing. That's why we need laws protecting your right to question my beliefs and my right to question your beliefs. But maybe you just can't see that, and that, I suppose, is part of the problem.

I never said or implied that Muslims are terrorists. I've never believed that. And by embracing violence as a solution -- even if it you do it as a joke -- you're giving them a bad name.

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

Malaysia probably has laws similar to Thailand concerning lese-Majeste...

- Poppadumdum

bibliobibuli said...

preeta - LOL. i want to worship teapots too.