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How Some Ultra-Royalists Make Sense of the Death of Amphon (Uncle SMS)

Less than 24 hours after the death while in detention of Lese Majeste convict and prisoner of conscience Amphon “Akong” Tangnoppakul, better known as Uncle SMS in English, this writer has observed how some ultra-royalists make sense of the first death of Thailand’s prisoners of conscience, and it became clear that they will blame it on anything or anyone but the draconian and undemocratic law and themselves.

They can blame Amphon’s lawyers for having initially persisted in fighting the case in the Appeal Court and not immediately sought a royal pardon so Aphom could have been properly cared for. (It must be noted that prior to the death of Amphon on May 8, many ultra-royalists expressed satisfaction that Aphon and other prisoners of conscience are locked behind bars).

There’s also a conspiracy theory being floated to help them see the death and prior arrest of Amphon as something engineered by red politicians and the current Yingluck Shinawatra administration, in order to undermine the monarchy institution.

Some of these ultra-royalists say people should not exploit the body of Amphon by parading it on the streets or place the coffin in front of Bangkok Criminal Court although these ultra-royalists have never expressed any concerns for the well-being of prisoners of conscience, but supported the incarceration.

They also showed the lack of understanding on what criminalization of speech means, or what the notion of prisoner of conscience is all about. One even tweeted to me saying these people have the right to think, so they are definitely not prisoners of conscience. I reminded the person that they are in jail precisely because they expressed what they thought – and in the case of Amphon, who had allegedly expressed it to just one man who happened to be a personal secretary to then prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, during and right after the bloody crackdown on red shirts in 2010.

They seemed not to understand how the lese majeste law and the criminalization of speech is affecting fundamental freedom of expression and appeared determined to treat the monarchy institution above any criticism – like blasphemy against God in some religions.

They also appeared unable to differentiate between criticism against the lese majeste law from that of criticism against the monarchy, and tended to automatically conclude that anyone who criticize the law are outright republicans wanting to overthrow the institution. They think those who oppose the law are also on the payroll of the ousted and fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and must be red shirts.

And while they whine about why some kept attacking the lese majeste law and whether such activity is tantamount to giving one-sided information and propaganda, they don’t seem to quite know how to describe the one-sided positive-only information about the monarchy fed to the whole nation through all mainstream mass media and educational institutions over the past 50 years. To them it’s ‘normal’.

They want to support the draconian lese majeste law which ensures self-censorship and censorship by mainstream mass media and want to insist that there’s no censorship on matters critical to the monarchy institution.

When I raised the issue as to why books like The King Never Smiles are not being discussed by the Thai mainstream mass media, why WikiLeaks and works based on it, like the one by Andrew Marshall, are not being debated publicly by the media or why Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s documentary on the monarchy are not being shared legally (with one man, Aekchai Hongkangwan, being briefly arrested and detained under lese majeste law for peddling CD copies of the ABC news and now fighting the case while on bail) they have no answer but to say all the information about the monarchy is false so it deserves to be banned or censored.

Do Thais have the right to decide and debate about the validity of the information publicly by themselves without risking almost certain imprisonment? Why?

These ultra-royalists, I’m afraid, are in a state of deep denial.

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