We live in a country where “words that cause emotional discomfort” is a crime that carries three to 15 years of prison sentence (Article 112, the lese majeste law).
However, these words are never revealed to the public. There is no transparency in the justice system when it comes to “words that cause emotional discomfort.”
The people do not have the right to know what are the words that can lead to prison. We are expected to simply accept that “inappropriate words” were uttered and “emotions have been hurt,” and that’s enough for three to 15 years imprisonment.
Is the Thai nation more emotionally fragile than a seven-year-old manic depressive child? Are we made of such soft stuff as to curl in a corner and in tears, lashing out in anger: “You hurt my feelings! I’m going to tell on you! They are going to throw you in jail”?
Apparently, many of us are exactly that, and they have the title “doctor” and “general” to their names.
Doctor Tul Sithisomwong was the leader of the now-defunct pro-establishment Multicolor-Shirt Movement, which came out in 2010 to oppose Thaksin Shinawatra’s Red-Shirt Movement. He’s been called an “ultra-royalist,” and yesterday, he lived up to this moniker.
At the Chana Songkram Police Station, he filed lese majeste complaints against the three leaders of the pro-democracy movement: Panusaya “Roong” Sithijirawattanakul, Anon Nampa, and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak.
Doctor Tul alleged that at the 19 September protest in Sanam Luang, the three used “inappropriate words” concerning the monarchy institution and that the demand to “reform the institution” is the same as to “insult the constitution.”
As such, he claimed that these things cause “emotional discomfort” to many Thais.
However, Doctor Tul said he does not intend for the three to go to jail. Instead, he wanted them charged to set an example and he expected a royal pardon for them.
Lieutenant General Piya Utayo is the deputy chief of the Royal Thai Police. He said this of the 19 September protest:
“Inappropriate words were used regarding the institution, which all Thai people love and respect, from country to religion and king. We, as protectors of the law, must serve the law, especially against those people who negatively affect the institution so well loved by the people.”
“We definitely will not let this go. They must take responsibility for what they have done. Everyone must take responsibility for their words.”
He said legal actions will be taken.
The unbearable lightness of being Thai
The doctor and the general are not alleging “hate speech that incites violence.”
They and countless other Thai traditionalists are alleging “inappropriate words that hurt feelings” as a crime that carries three to 15 years’ prison sentence. Which has already seen hundreds of people in jail and many others escaped abroad as political refugees.
If anyone wonders why some 100,000 people gathered at Sanam Luang this past Saturday to demand reforms, criminalizing “words that hurt feelings” is one reason why.