Thailand: PM meets exiled scholar and critic at Oxford

Giles/Ji Ungpakorn is Thai political science scholar who criticized Thai monarchy. Last month he wrote the  ‘Red Siam’ Manifesto (see previous post) and then fled to UK to avoid the infamous Lèse majesté charge. He is half Thai-British, holding UK citizenship and graduated from Durham.

Abhisit Vejjajiva is the current Thailand's prime minister. He comes from elite class, born in Newcastle and Oxford educated. His Democrat party has been accused for supporting the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a royalist movement, to seize Bangkok airport last November/December. The Democrat party also has been accused for using Lèse majesté against their opponents for long long time in Thailand's modern history.

On 16th March 2009, Abhisit was invited to speech at St. John College, Oxford as a successful alumnus. Giles also attended and asked questions in the forum. So here is the video of that conversation by two leaders, both are UK graduated, of totally different mantra, in UK.

The full Abhisit's transcript and atmosphere report (including protest) is available from New Mandala (in English). The Thai translation is also available from Prachatai.

Here is conversation excerpt on the Lèse majesté issue:

Giles began by saying that he faced a lese majeste charge from the Abhisit government for writing an academic book, and there are several people in Thailand are also facing the same charge unjustifiably. He then went on to criticise Abhisit’s government for relying on the military intervention (in lobbying the faction of MPs to support them) to get into power, for having members of the cabinet that participated in the closing down of the airport, and for neglecting to charge the army general who ordered the Takbai massacre.

Below is the reply of Abhisit:

Abhisit responded to Giles by saying that the fact that he agreed to answer questions (like Giles’ questions) is a testament that he is a democratic politician, and he would be surprised if the people whom Giles admired when they were PM would accept such questions from the audience. He then argued that Giles’ facts were not right, a number of lese majeste charges were not made when his party is in power, it was made during the time when Thaksin or his followers ran the government. He also faced the lese majeste charge during Thaksin’s government but the police dropped the charge. He argued that people who are democrats must respect and not run away from the law, and he believes that Giles’ charge was legitimate because he made an allegation that the monarchy backed the coup

Abhisit also mentioned the meeting with the free-speech movement group Thai Netizen for the future resolution on Lèse majesté and Thai internet users.

He is the first prime minister to invite the group called Netizen to work out how best to deal with illegal content on the web.

1 comment

  • TDoc

    I second Abhisit’s remarks that Giles shouldn’t run away from the law… if he was to demand a democratic society, he should be one of the very first people to set a good example by following the rule of law… or else the vicious cycle of political fighting in Thailand would eventually mar every legitimate actions…

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