During the last decade, I have written several academic and general articles on the monarchy, and have spoken publicly about this issue. I have never used these occasions to propose the so called “lom chao” or “overthrowing the monarchical institution.” Each and every one of my public statement and written work is premised on the assumption of the continuation of the monarchy. At the same time, I do not conceal my view concerning the need to transform and adapt the monarchy according to the principles of democratic governance, the rule of law, and the advances of the modern world. The law permits people to express their views or make recommendations concerning the necessity of transforming and adapting the monarchy. Such acts are not illegal; they break neither the constitutional nor criminal law. For this reason, I have always written and spoken about this issue under my real name. At the beginning of 2010, I presented my view concerning the reform of the monarchy as an eight-point proposal, which I subsequently made available to the public. The proposal was widely read. On February 21, 2010, Senator Kamnoon Sitthisamarn, for one, reproduced it, accompanied by his commentary, in Manager newspaper.
The talk I gave on December 10, 2010, and any statement or writing I have produced since then, have all been within the framework of these eight concrete, legally justifiable, proposals concerning reforming the monarchy.
However, if state officials, whether of the civilian or military variety, are of the opinion that I have broken the law, I would be happy to clarify my position and defend my case according to all due legal process. It has never occurred to me to evade any accusations. It is a well-known fact that I am prepared to openly debate and exchange opinions with fellow citizens who hold opposing views. I have engaged in such public exchanges on many occasions.
Over the past two weeks or so, state officials have been increasing tension with their references to the accusation commonly referred to as “lèse majesté.” In an interview dated April 7, the Commander in Chief attacked “a mentally ill academic” who “is intent on overthrowing the institution.” Since April 10, the military has been giving interviews and loudly demonstrating its might on a daily basis. Such gestures, though they do not directly target me, have created a climate of fear in Thai society regarding the monarchy. A development that directly concerns me is the comment, made in private, by a leading government figure that the military has been putting pressure on that person to specifically persecute me. Additionally, well-placed officials have revealed that preparations are being made to bring charges against me.
As I stated earlier, none of my actions regarding this issue are illegal. However, a climate of fear has been created by the military’s daily display of might. Within this context, there have been unusual occurrences which have directly targeted me.
For instance, earlier this week two men on separate motorbikes were twice spotted surveying the area near my house. When the security guard in my housing estate enquired why they were there, they replied that they had come to “pick up ajarn (professor).” They did not claim to be officials and did not show any official documents. Additionally, an anonymous phone call was made to my house warning me to be careful. The caller claimed that a certain security department has ordered a large number of its officials to closely monitor my movements round the clock, and to be ready to arrest me immediately upon receiving the order.
I would like to emphasise that I have always expressed my opinions, and my proposals, concerning reforming the monarchy in an open manner, always according to the framework permitted by law. However, given these unusual developments of recent days, I feel it is necessary to communicate to the press and the public, and via them to state officials, that the right to express views about and to comment on the institution of the monarchy is legal according to the international human rights principle, and even according to the principle of the Thai constitutional law. As for the usage of the problematic law known as “lèse majesté,” if there are plans to bring this accusation upon myself or others, the prosecution should respect due legal process. The fuelling of the climate of fear must stop, as it is this which licenses the usage of extra legal forces in whatever form, whether against myself or others who have been accused. The military’s repeated display of force over the past ten days or so under the claim of preventing “lèse majesté” does not subscribe to legal principles. The outcome it encourages is that carried out via extra legal measures.
I maintain that I have always acted publicly and in good faith. If state officials deem it necessary to do so, they are able to call me in for questioning. I am always prepared to clarify myself and answer any questions they may have. The issuing of an arrest warrant is unnecessary, as is the monitoring of my movements or the usage of various measures of questionable legal status to increase the tension. If I am to be prosecuted, I will be prepared to claim my right to legal defense and will apply for bail. I have never considered escaping or evading the accusation as I am an employee of the state with academic teaching and research responsibilities. I believe that my action establishes a correct standard of conduct, both for myself and others, concerning this issue.
Somsak Jeamteerasakul, PhD.
Department of History