BBC Seeks Solution after its Reporter is Charged with Lese Majeste

10 April 2008 –Associated Press reported progress in the case of Jonathan Head, BBC’s Asia-Pacific reporter who has been charged with lèse majesté under article 112 of the Criminal Code. The charge arises from his role as moderator of a seminar entitled “Coup, Capital and Crown” at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) on 13 December 2007. A representative of the international news broadcasting company said it is aware of the case and will find a solution as soon as possible.

The charge against Mr. Head was filed on 8 April 2008 by Pol Lt Wattanasak Mungkitjakarndee, Investigation Officer of Bang Mot Police Station, seconded to Phaholyothin Police Station. Pol Lt Wattanasak alleged that during the FCCT seminar Mr. Head used phases that constitute a violation of the laws on lèse majesté. Pol Lt Wattanasak then gathered evidence in the form of a CD of the seminar, an English transcript of Mr. Head’s speech, and a Thai translation and handed this to Pol Maj Boonlert Kalayanamit, an Investigation Officer at the Crime Suppression Division. Pol Lt Wattanasak has also filed a similar charge against the Committee of the FCCT.   

Mr. Jonathan Head and the Committee members of the FCCT have reserved the right to remain silent regarding the case and commented that as this is a sensitive issue, any comments could affect the case.

The seminar hosted by the FCCT named ‘Coup, Capital, and Crown’ (meaning the Crown Property Bureau) focused on two publications namely Thai Capital after the 1997 Crisis written by Dr. Pasuk Phongpaijit and Chris Baker, and Journal of Contemporary Asia Special: The Thailand Coup edited by Kevin Hewison and Michael Connors.

Red&White, a blogger who attended the FCCT seminar on 13 December 2007 made a brief record of the speeches and the atmosphere. In his entry the blogger quoted Jonathan Head as saying, "As a journalist, it's very frustrating not being able to discuss the monarchy, but we must respect the law and be restrained in what we say."

Apart from that Jonathan also referred to the fact that, “"His Majesty The King is now eighty, he will not be around forever…[d]emocracy, the military and the monarchy are deeply linked.”

After that Jonathan Head introduced the four speakers who were Kevin Hewison, Pasuk Phongpaichit, Porphant Ouyyanont, Ukrist Patmanand.

The same blogger also raised concerns that there could be more charges against seminar participants apart from Jonathan Head and the FCCT committee, since the book “Thai Capital after the 1997 Crisis” analyses the effects of the economic crisis in 1997 on business, society, and politics. It refers to the important role of the Crown Property Bureau in supporting different investments.

The “Journal of Contemporary Asia Special: The Thailand Coup” is a compilation of 10 articles by Thai and international academics discussing the elements that led to the coup d’état in September 2006. It also discusses the effects of the coup on Thai society, including the question whether or not Thaksin was a threat to the monarchy.

Source: 
<p>http://www.prachatai.com/05web/th/home/11821</p>