Thailand is well-known for regulating its people and the press in their coverage of the Thai Monarchy; anyone who openly criticises the monarchy or member of the royal family can be charged with lèse-majesté. Here, they can face a sentence of up to fifteen years behind bars. Since the military coup in 2014, those accused of lèse-majesté has jumped significantly. It comes as no surprise that on Wednesday, three outspoken critics of the monarchy have been ban from the internet. No one is to contact them either directly or indirectly.
The order comes from Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Society. Citizens are liable for prosecution if they contact them or share their social media posts. The three prolific individuals are historian-in-exile Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who fled Thailand for France in May 2014 after the military took over, Academic-in-exile Pavin Chachavalpongpun lives and teaches in Japan, and former reporter Andrew MacGregor Marshall who published a book about the Thai monarchy.
The statement reads, in part: “Members of the public are asked to refrain from following, contacting, spreading or engaging in any activity that results in spreading content and information of the persons mentioned in this announcement on the internet system, social media; either directly or indirectly.”
Furthermore, the statement says that the content written by the three violates the Computer Crime Act, it does not sight any legal basis. No insight was provided regarding what brought on this ban on the three prolific individuals; and why it was put into place. Here’s some background about the three critics.
In 2010, Somsak Jeamteerasakul created and posted eight proposals to change Thailand’s monarchy. One of these is to remove the article from the Thai constitution that “speaks of the king as “enthroned in a position of revered worship”. He also suggested abolishing “one-sided public relations and educational activities related to the monarchy.”
He also proposed the abolition of the Privy Council of Thailand and the removal of the Crown Property Bureau. The bureau is thought to hold assets of $37 billion US or more and which by law, is to be used “at the king’s pleasure.” He also advocated for the abolishment of article 112 of Thailand’s criminal code, the lèse-majesté law, which he stated are “against the principles of democracy and even against common sense. You cannot regard the monarchy as always right all the time.”
Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a former Thai diplomat who now teaches at a university in Japan. He has given lectures overseas where he has given no-nonsense talks about the monarchy and the hunta. While Andrew Macgregor Marshall openly committed lèse-majesté when he wrote and published A Kingdom in Crisis (Asian Arguments). He examined Thailand and showed the struggle the country is going through to become a Democracy.