Yesterday’s Facebook news feed saw many articles by international media such as BBC, Reuters, Al Jazeera, and others with these words in their headlines: “… openly criticizes the monarchy.”
These articles cited Thailand’s Lèse majesté law that says defaming the monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The question then becomes, from the stage at the Democracy Monument earlier this week, in the Harry Potter-theme protest against the Prayut Chan-o-cha Government, did 34-year-old Lawyer Anon Nampa defame the monarchy?
Some people would answer no; some would say yes.
If one listens to Anon’s words and hears what he said, it may lead to fruitful conversations. However, if one listens to his words and only hears one’s own prejudices, history may repeat itself: anger and hatred, court and prison, violence and bloodshed.
“Our king.” “Our monarchy institution.” “Our most respected institution.” “With love and respect for our institution.” “Democracy, with the king as the head of state.”
These were the words used by Anon, with “our” as the key term, which means all Thai people.
Here were his criticisms: He said, “Damn dictatorship.” He accused General Prahut Chan-o-cha of “exploiting” the institution for his own “power.” He pointed to an “undemocratic constitution” that gives “unchecked power” to the monarchy.
He cited these examples: The wealth of the monarchy belongs to the monarchy, but the wealth that comes from the people’s tax should have independent oversight; the direct control of military power; and the use of taxpayers’ money.
Hence, his message was: The constitution gives “unchecked power” to the institution, Thailand should become a “constitutional monarchy with the king as the head of state,” where there’s “checks & balances of powers.”
Anon said the attempt to unseat the Prayut Government is to free Thailand from dictatorial power, not to overthrow the monarchy.
It’s about checks & balances of power.
Anon spoke of “balances of power,” which is the theme of democracy.
The constitution is the rule of law that makes for the foundation of a nation; it is the social contract agreed upon by citizens. A democratic constitution gives balances of power, while an undemocratic one yields to unchecked power.
The question then becomes: Is this something the Thai society can openly discuss, without being branded anti-monarchy and punished by the law?