The recent spike in lèse majesté cases seems likely to continue, the majority being brought by private individuals with a variety of motives. An accusation brought by TV talk show host Pontipa Supatnukul has, for example, triggered a chain reaction of similar accusations.
Khun Pontipa arrived at a Nonthaburi police station, with cameras in tow, to file charges against Aum Neko, a Thammasat University student who has courted notoriety, most recently for a set of suggestive posters. The posters show Aum Neko and some male students simulating sexual acts while wearing student uniforms. The goal, they claim, was to campaign against rules on the compulsory wearing of uniforms. At least while having sex.
Khun Pontipa apparently took exception to the posters and decided to unearth a months-old tape of an interview she had done with Aum Neko which had never been aired. In the interview, Khun Pontipa alleges, Aum Neko spoke out against the requirement for cinema audiences to stand during the playing of the Royal Anthem before every screening and made other remarks disrespectful of the monarchy.
Khun Pontipa gave the police a copy of the tape as evidence of lèse majesté thought, together with full personal details for Aum Neko, something the police cheerfully shared with the media that Khun Pontipa had brought with her.
Khun Pontipa is an associate at satellite Channel 13 Siamthai of Chaiwat Sinsuwong, leader of the Thai Patriots Network. This anti-government pro-monarchist group has staged a prolonged and bedraggled protest on Sanam Luang to no clear benefit.
One would have thought that such a background would ensure excellent royalist credentials. But no sooner had police formally accepted Khun Pontipa’s allegations and begun their investigations when Khun Pontipa found herself on the wrong end of another lèse majesté accusation.
The previously unknown Thai Even Greater Patriots Network filed charges based on the following facts:
- Khun Pontipa had admitted being in possession of allegedly lèse majesté material for a lengthy period of time without either destroying it or handing it over to the appropriate authorities.
- The bizarre clothing worn by Khun Pontipa when she filed charges was completely out of keeping with the defence of the supreme institution. She failed to wear royal colours (her dress was a mustardy shade of yellow, not a proper royal yellow) and she sported a ridiculous hat that no member of the monarchy would dream of wearing.
- Upstarts like Khun Pontipa and her cronies at the Thai Patriots Network have no right to abrogate to themselves the right and responsibility of protecting the monarchical institution. Scatter-gun charges of this kind filed by any random royalist will only lead to abuse and bring Article 112 into disrepute. They could even, heaven forbid, have the opposite of the intended effect.
While independent observers found these arguments far from compelling and urged that the accusation be rejected out of hand, the police, perhaps fearful of criticism for failing to do their duty, chose to conduct a swift investigation and quickly pass the dossier to the Attorney-General’s Office for them to sort out.
Next to appear at a police station was the newly-formed Thai Unique and Unparalleled Patriots Network, who expressed complete and total support for Khun Pontipa and her allegations and instead charged the Thai Even Greater Patriots Network with lèse majesté for attempting to hobble legitimate and sincere efforts to suppress lèse majesté activities.
Before the now bemused police could figure out what to make of this hot potato, another one landed in their lap and burned their whatevers. The Thai Honestly and Truly Patriots Network brought charges against the police themselves, arguing that no sane person could accept all these charges without contradicting themselves. If they believed one accusation, they must logically discredit another and whichever it was, that would constitute lèse majesté.
The police, on the brink of filing charges against themselves, became even more confused when they were shown a Facebook page which claimed that the last allegation was a hoax perpetrated by a shadowy overseas organization called Thais for a Republic of Siam. This group gleefully admitted adding fuel to the bonfire of mounting lèse majesté allegations.
‘If more and more spurious 112 charges are brought,’ their Facebook page read, ‘it can only hasten the ignominious and long overdue death of Article 112.’
At press time, the police were contemplating charges of obstructing an official in the execution of his duties, wasting police time, and attempted murder of an Article of the Constitution.
About author: Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).
And if you believe any of those stories, you might believe his columns.