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Thailand: Summary from the academic forum on Lese Majeste

Categories: East Asia, Thailand, Freedom of Speech, Law, Politics

Lese Majeste [1] is still a hot issue in Thailand. On 21-22 March, there was a two-day academic forum, “Various Opinions on Lese Majeste”, at Thammasart University, Bangkok. Many big-name scholars from political science and law schools, and an ex-dean of a famous university attended the event.

The summary of day 1 is available in English at Prachatai [2] (in Thai [3]). The same English article was also published on The Nation [4], a leading Thailand daily. Unfortunately, I can't find the English summarization of the second day yet (Thai is available [5] if you're interested and can read in Thai).

Let's see some quotes from day 1 of the discussion:

Prof Thongthong Chandrangsu, a well-known royalist, expert on royal history and former dean of Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Law.

“I don't see the letter of the law as problematic, but the application of it is when used in an all-encompassing way. That is my honest opinion,”


He added that anyone who felt someone was acting or speaking inappropriately about the monarchy, or was uncomfortable about someone's attitude towards the monarchy, might simply file a lese-majeste suit, which made the application of the law “problematic”.

However, he opposed a suggestion by someone in the audience at Thammasat University's Faculty of Law to only allow the Office of the Secretary to His Majesty to file or approve lese-majeste suits as tending to drag the monarchy directly into the conflict.

Nidhi Eoseewong [6], a famous Thai historian, proposed the idea of “sacred space conflict”

Nidhi said the “sacred space” where the monarchy was revered must be reduced to fit a democratic system.

“If the sacred space is too large it will occupy and reduce the public's space,” he concluded. Nidhi also urged certain political groups to stop using the fear of republicanism as a political weapon, saying that never in the modern history of Thailand had republicanism been a viable alternative.

Kasien Techapira, political science lecturer from Thammasart University:

“Those who support the protection of the monarchy principally through coercion damage the monarchy … They may unknowingly shift towards fascism in the name of monarchy,”

Magsaysay Award winner and human-rights lawyer Thongbai Thongpao:

“The wording of the law is also copious and has since been further expanded in interpretation. Some have even said that praising the monarchy in some circumstances could be construed as sarcasm. It's not easy to reform the law either, because it would be problematic to make it more specific.”

On day 2, there were the speakers from law schools, the representative of The Ministry of Justice (who enforces the Lese Majeste law) and the member of senate who is on the committee for Lese Majeste issue.