Monday, February 26, 2018

The Adventures of Ekachai Hongkangwan: Part 3

by Ann Norman
Petitions Dictator Prayut to use his dictatorial powers to abolish Thailand’s lese majesty law
As you will recall, Ekachai Hongkangwan spent almost three years in jail for selling CDs of an Australian documentary about the royal succession, which you can read about in The Adventures of Ekachai Hongkangwan, Part 1. When he got out, he started a nonprofit organization to help other lese majesty victims (people accused of “insulting” the monarchy) and other political prisoners.
As part of his activism on behalf of the lese majesty victims, on September 12, 2017, Khun Ekachai boldy petitioned Dictator Prayut Chan-ocha to use his self-given dictatorial powers under Section 44 of the Interim Constitution to end the lese majesty law. Makes sense, right? Dictator Prayut justified his power grab as a quick way to enact democractic reforms before returning a new, improved democracy to the people. What better way to enact democratic reform than to remove the law that blocks all serious discussion of politics in Thailand?
Dictator Prayut gave Khun Ekachai an opening to petition in comments the dictator made after Pai Dao Din was sentenced to 2.5 years in jail simply for sharing a ordinary BBC news article. Prayut claimed that the King is merciful and doesn’t like to see people punished in this way:
“Nowadays, the monarchy has always shown mercy and ordered that [he] doesn’t want people to be punished for such matters.” said Gen Prayut “The King has always given royal pardons and amnesties but there are still people trying to do it [commit lèse majesté]. I don’t understand.”
Having heard similar pleadings from Prayut in the past, right before yet another ruthless crackdown on those sharing news about the King (whether about his twisted lifestyle or his direct attacks on Thai democracy), I can re-translate this statement:
“Children, children, PLEASE stop challenging me or I will be forced to come over there and spank you.”
It was Thai scholar Thanaboon Chiranuvat, also commenting on the Pai Dao Din case, who pointed out that Thai society doesn’t really care about the international law aspects of the Pai Dao Din case because in practice Thai society hasn’t really developed a respect for the rule of law, but in practice administers the country on the model of a family, particularly the model of a father dictating to children.
Rather than begging a father for mercy, Ekachai is using logic to request that the human rights of all Thais be respected. He notes that among the European countries that used to have a lese majesty law, almost all have gotten rid of it, and that those few that still have one, don’t use it. And that General Prayut completely has it in his power to solve this problem.
There is no good answer Prayut can offer to this argument, other than to threaten people into silence. And so I fear for the safety of Ekachai Hongkangwan because he is a brave civil rights activist throwing himself against the “my clan” supremacists currently ruling Thailand.

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