Human dignity and lese majeste

Bundith Arniya or Jerseng Sae Kow, now 71 years old or 75 years old, depending on the source, has faced a series of lese majeste for several years. He is a reasonably well-known translator, mainly of books about socialism. He claims that the first time he was accused of lese majeste was in 1975.

As far as we can discern, this is the third lese majeste case he has faced since 2003.

His first case is important because the plaintiff was the secretary of the Privy Council. This shows that repeated claims that the palace doesn’t use the law is buffalo manure. In those somewhat easier days, when Bundith was found guilty  in the case, the secretary of the Privy Council appealed the case to a higher court, not wanting Bundith to have probation. That appeal was heard in a closed courtroom. That appeal saw him sentenced to almost three years in jail. Budith appealed and the case closed in 2013, with the Supreme Court finding him guilty of lese majeste and giving him a suspended sentence of three years in prison.

The second case was in November 2014, when the military brought charges against him.

The third case is the subject of current action. Prachatai reports that police have arrested the writer “for allegedly making comments about the Thai Monarchy while talking about human dignity at a political seminar.” The seminar on 12 September 2015 at Thammasat University was reportedly “about the junta-sponsored constitution drafting process.”

Police agitation over the comments at the seminar concerns Bundith’s “proposed five important principles” for the draft constitution, “one of which is about human dignity.” The royalist police allege “that the comment about human dignity allegedly contained references to the … [m]onarchy.”

Police officers and soldiers who spied on the seminar were not amused with Bundith’s suggestion that “the new constitution should contain the idea that Thai people of all classes shall be equal and all are equal owners of the country.” Initially, the comments did not result in a lese majeste charge. Now, however, the mood has changed and this statement, which would be entirely unremarkable in modern and civilized nations, is considered to insult the dead king that the military junta will honor as King Bhumibol the Great.*

We guess the junta and/or the palace is behind the change of position on Bundith’s case. However, Khaosod reports that: “Police explained that they sent a transcript of the video to a police committee…. They deliberated on it and ordered prosecution.” A one-year deliberation period seems unlikely and we suspect pressure from on high.

According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, “the Military Court of Bangkok on 16 November 2016 has denied the bail request for Bundit Aneeya. He will be detained in Bangkok Remand Prison for the first custody period from 16-29 November 2016 with the possibility of the custody permission being renewed.” Bundith has long been “diagnosed with psychosis, has only one kidney and has to carry a urine drainage bag with him all the time.”

When he gets to court, Bundith will be in a military court because, as ludicrous as it sounds, the military junta deems “insulting the royal family is deemed a matter of national security and tribunals will continue hearing such cases.”

Lese majeste strips everyone of all dignity.

 

*In fact, this was already done many years ago under… guess who? Yep, royal toady and palace favorite General Prem Tinsulanonda. As one of the documents [opens a PDF that infringes Article 112] we have had posted for several years states:

The powerful Ministry of Interior even held a nationwide ‘vote’ on what title should be allocated to the King – ‘the Great’ or some similar honorific – with the results being published (everyone was said to have voted), and a shrine erected to house the books of votes. In other places such displays by government would probably be seen as ‘authoritarian’, ‘sickening’ (by republicans), or just silly; but not so in Thailand.

He became “the Great” in that “election.” The junta seems to be in Groundhog Day mode.

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