Thailand is a nation that suffers from frequent military coups. What comes with the coup is a loss of civil liberties. That is not to say Thais enjoy freedom of speech and expression when the military is not in power. The primary reason Thailand does not have these freedoms is the existence and broad application of what is known as a Lese Majesty law. This law means that to insult the king is to commit a crime.
Lese Majesty in terms of hampering freedom of expression can be seen in examples of the censorship of domestically produced films. A film called ‘Boundary’ was censored. “The film made a reference to the sky in the film in such a way that the censors deemed it as a reference that was a negative towards the king.” (CPJ) Thus by use of the Lese Majesty law the censors banned the film.
Lese Majesty does not stop with the production of films. The law is now applied on line do to an act called the ‘Act on Computer Crime’ that was passed in 2007. That means anything written on a blog or message board is subject to Lese Majesty. An instance of this occurred on January 14, 2009. According to Reporters Without Borders, “Suwicha Thakor was arrested by the Department of Special Investigation, while he was at home with friends as his internet address matched that of one that had left negative comments about the King of Thailand online.” This sort of policing is an absolute overreach of a law that was implemented over one hundred years ago.
The Lese Majesty law in Thailand may seem like the remnant of a bygone era that has no business in the twenty-first century. But it is a useful tool to whoever is in power at the time in Thailand. Military of civilian it is useful for the ruling government to have a law with great over reach that exists in the name of the King. The usage of the law does not require accountability either. A reporter for instance who would like to report on a story where someone was detained or convicted under the Lese Majesty law would be unable to report it. To report what was said would incriminate the reporter under the law itself.
It is dangerous to discuss the law in public for one could easily break the law simply by talking about it. A law that cannot be discussed and may be used without accountability which can silence dissent is truly a gift to any censor. It is a major obstacle to creativity, expression and free speech in Thailand. Lese Majesty is not likely to be abolished in Thailand in the foreseeable future and censorship will therefore remain as well.
Brossel, Vincent. “Suwicha Thakor – Reporters Without Borders.” Reporters Without Borders. Reporters Without Borders, 06 Feb. 2009. Web. 07 May 2015. <http://en.rsf.org/suwicha-thakor-06-02-2009,30227>.
CPJ. “Censors Ban Political Documentary in Thailand.” – Committee to Protect Journalists. Committee to Protect Journalists, 25 Apr. 2013. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.