I have been involved in many lèse majesté cases with different outcomes and under different circumstances. My involvement has been as a defendant, a defense witness, a publisher, and as an organizer of discussions, and as someone who has campaigned against the use of lèse majesté. On Wednesday, 11 May, when Professor Somsak Jeamteerasakul goes to hear the charges brought against him, 11 May, it will mark a turning point for lèse majesté. This is the case for the following reasons:
1. Professor Somsak Jeamteerasakul has continuously maintained/demonstrated, even demanded, open discussion about the institution of the monarchy. He has done this until it appears that the line has moved as “far” as it can go at this moment. By making the accusations against him, the state authorities are, at the very least, dragging the “line” that Professor Somsak (and many others) have moved and return it to the place it was initially drawn before 19 September .
2. At the very least, bringing charges against Professor Somsak Jeamteerasakul will cause him to be more careful and cautious than previously (this is a rather inexpensive way for the army and the institution [of the monarchy] to do this). Even so, this is still a crossing of the line that state power had in place previously, which “allowed” some discussion on this topic as long as it was “academic” discussion by “academics.”
3. If the case is carried to completion, this is what would happen: the police send the case to the prosecutor ---> the prosecutor sends the case to court ---> the court of first instance rules ---> the appeal court rules ---> the supreme court rules. Regardless of how far this case proceeds, the effects on the esprit and determination of those who would raise the issue of the royal institution in public discussion will not be insignificant.
4. The charge that the soldiers are going to make tomorrow seems to be along the lines of an all-embracing accusation. From my experience, when there were accusations resulting from the interview with Sulak Sivaraksa on the topic of “It is cheaper to have a monarchy than a president,” there were 19 specific points. Many of these points, if we use my standards, were very “weak.” No matter how they were interpreted, no one could be punished. But if one thinks that this is not an issue of the law, but an issue of politics, then it is not enough to only silence Professor Somsak. Others will have to be included. Because we can see what the act of officials “drawing a line,” can do, and what it cannot do.
5. In my opinion, even though the “clever” strategy of officialdom, and especially that of the institution [of the monarchy], to cast a wide net may stop the movement in the short-term and keep them from having to adjust themselves, it will not work in the long-term. They have failed to realize that this will cause the analysis of the movement to go further underground. After this, criticism in the vein of “Reforming the Institution of the Monarchy,” such as that which Professor Somsak offers, has expanded in its effect to go “beyond the limit.” It could be said that this strategy is “naïve.”
6. Even though this case will cause us to become even more conscious of the danger of the lèse majesté law, at the same time, we should not be unduly afraid of the law, even though tomorrow the police will reveal the content of the accusations brought against Professor Somsak Jeamteerasakul. We have to realize that this is only the accusation of royalists. This case has yet to go to the prosecutor.
Translated by Tyrell Haberkorn and Craig Reynolds.