Insults vs. Hate Crime, who will win this game of attention?
Since the 2015 attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris by ultra-radical Islamist terrorists, Islamophobia quickly intensify internationally. While the world shed tears for the 12 victims, they were symbolized as heroic freedom of speech figures. However, the shady side of this incident revealed later that the publisher had often insulted the Prophet Muhammad and many respectable Muslim figures.
The publisher was sued in 2006 under French hate speech laws by Islamic organizations but the French court rejected the accusations. Seemingly the world sees only the dead victims but not the insults. Charlie Hebdo nowadays is still publishing satirical cartoons and jokes that mock all religions.
Meanwhile in Thailand, witch hunts began just after King Rama IX’s death against those insulting the royal family or the late King. The lèse majesté law in Thailand has been used to persecute the opposition for a long time and the harassment is now taking many violent forms, ranging from hate speech on Facebook posts, physical abuse and death threats. Surprisingly the crowds seemed to be pleased to punish the offenders following their own rules and ignored the laws. Government representatives, such as Justice Minister Paiboon Khumchaya, preferred social sanctions over the law itself in order to deal with this issue.
What can we see from these two cases? First of all, we can see a similarity; starting from insults which lead to crimes. The Thailand case hasn’t gone that far yet, but we already see increasing violence. A clear example is the famous Aum Neko or Sarun Chuchai, a Thai liberal activist. She is now on the run from death threats after she posted a video harshly insulting the late King. Even UNHCR Thailand refused any direct or indirect connections with her status as a political refugee in France. Ultra-royalist Thais become more and more ignorant of the rules of law, international opinion and human rights when it comes to their beloved King.
Secondly, the result at an international level of the Paris attack is clearly in favour of those who insulted under the concept of freedom of speech, and not the criminals. No matter how rude or how abusive the insults are, crimes against human rights are incomparably more severe. What is interesting in the French case is the reason that the court gave for rejecting the accusation of hate speech against Charlie Hebdo: “the acceptable limits of freedom of expression have not been overstepped, with the contentious pictures participating in a public debate of general interest”.
If there were a murder in the case of Thailand, opinions among the Thai people would not have been very different from the recent atmosphere of hate. But, it is indeed inhumanity act which would cause condemnation at the international level. The winners in this game seem to be the victims of hate. They would finally become heroes in their ideology and applauded internationally. The haters, in the end, would be characterized as sub-humans who enjoyed somebody’s death. No peace comes after death which leads to more conflict and more hate.
Sukpavee Kobel, post-graduated from Erasmus Mundus Master program TEMA, ELTE, Hungary.