In reference to Sulak Sivaraksa’s letter to the Prime Minister dated 6 November 2006 and the Director General of the Office of the Prime Minister’s reply letter dated 15 November 2006
Dear Prime Minister,
On 15 November, the Office of the Prime Minister replied to my 6 November 2006 letter to the Prime Minister concerning the dropping of the charge of lese majeste against me at the level of inquiry officials. In the letter, the Office of the Prime Minister states that it has sent my letter to the Royal Thai Police to be used at the inquiry level.
The Prime Minister has clearly expressed his resolve to make the Royal Thai Police truly neutral and independent, especially from being exploited as a political tool, to high-ranking police officers on 29 November 2006. The police must care for rather than jeopardize the security of all Thai citizens.
It is well known that the charge the Royal Thai Police lodged against me was politically motivated. It seemed to have been unofficially dictated by the former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, because I had alleged that he lacked the legitimacy to govern the country. I had faced the same charge before in 1984 when General Arthit Kamlang-ake was jockeying for power vis-à-vis Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda; and in 1991 when General Suchinda Kraprayoon toppled the Chatichai Choonhavan government. Concerning the latter case, my trial lasted four years. The court ultimately acquitted me of the charge of lese majeste. The following is the crucial section of the final court decision.
Filed under: Engaged Spirituality, Environment, Human Rights, Non-Violence
Kanchanaburi public prosecutor (Thong Paphoom) V. Sulak Sivaraksa
For violation of the Thai Petroleum Act BE 2522 (1979)
The court has been informed that on 7 May 1996, the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) was authorized to undertake the construction of natural gas pipelines from the Yadana source in Burma through the Thailand-Burma border into Thailand at Ban I-tong, Tambon Pilok, Thong Paphoom district, Kanchanaburi province toward the Ratchaburi combined cycle power plant in Muang district, Ratchaburi province. But between 2-6 March 1998, during day and night successively, the accused and about 30 others camped out in the forest to obstruct the construction of the pipelines. They stood in rows and sat in groups to make the operation of the machines impossible. Thus, they were accused for violating the laws which provided for the rights of PTT to continue their construction.
The accused refused to accept the charge. He informed the judges that as a law graduate he believes in the Constitution and cherishes the constitutional monarchy. Among many in Siam, he has been revered as a conservationist who has made immense contribution to history, social development, economics, politics, culture, archeology and the environment. Apart from his extensive writings, lectures or public speeches, the accused has been endeavoring to work to preserve ancient buildings and the environment all along. Being informed about the Thailand-Burma gas pipeline project, he deemed the project had been pushed ahead by PTT with support from the Thai government without heeding to public opinions. The government, by refusing to hear voices from the people, was pressing ahead a project that would cause massive damages to the national interests, economically and politically, within and outside the country. The damages would also reach the environment, forests, fauna, etc. With this concern and the care for nature and the environment, the accused has been opposed to deforestation, destruction of the environment, particularly, in pristine forests of Kanchanaburi province. Therefore, the opposition waged by the accused toward the construction of the natural gas pipeline rests on the fervent hope to protect national interests at present and in future. It can be regarded as a sincere, honest, peaceful and nonviolent action and this right and freedom has been exercised duly under the provisions in the Constitution.
The accused further argued that the Petroleum Act BE 2522 (1979), which had been cited by the plaintiff to bring charges against him is unlawful in light of the current Constitution. The law grants draconian powers to PTT to bring charges against anyone who decide to obstruct their operation. However, with the attempts by the government to corporatize PTT, new legislations have been issued in recent years and that has led to the revocation of the PTT Act. In addition, the new laws mulled for the governing of the corporatized PTT bear no punitive clauses. Therefore, the PTT Act can no longer be cited as a ground to punish anyone who obstructs the operation by PTT.
The judges are therefore of the opinion that the accused is found not guilty for the charge.
Judges of the Criminal Court, 18 August 2006
The word “democracy” appeared in the First Declaration of the People’s Party which was announced and distributed to the public on 24 June 1932. It states: “It is necessary that the country has a government like in a democracy; that is, the country’s head of state must be a commoner elected by Parliament to assume the position for a specified period. Citizens, expect to be cared for in the best ways.”
Now, the word “democracy” often refers to a presidency or a republic. To avoid any misunderstanding or fear, democracy is further clarified to specifically mean “a democracy with the monarch as the head of state”; that is, a constitutional monarchy.
In reality, the word “democracy” is often mistakenly used and abused. Many states that call themselves “democracies” take pride in allowing their citizens to vote for their own representatives in parliament every four year or so. (Here I won’t refer to the presidential system.) Before citizens go cast their votes, all kinds of means are used during the election campaigns—lies, vote-buying, disinformation, etc. in various degrees. When the whole electoral process is over, the right to government is jealously guarded by politicians and representatives, and citizens are swept aside to play the role of having no role. In some countries, the freedom of expression is only nominally upheld. Here I am not referring to dictatorships in the guise of democracies such as Singapore and Malaysia, but full-fledged democracies like England whose mass media systems are dominated by vested interests and the pursuit of profit. As such, their citizens have limited access to vital information (e.g., many important issues are not freely discussed, and hence are unknown), and therefore they may interpret the world according to the dictates of the ruling interests—e.g., capitalism, consumerism, neoliberalism, imperialism, etc. People everywhere are increasingly finding this version of democracy revolting. No doubt, this is not the kind of democracy that Thais should aim for; it is not good enough for us.
6 November 2006
Dear Prime Minister,
Concerning the case of Sulak Sivaraksa, who is charged with lese majeste pertaining to his interview published in the magazine Fah Diew Kan, Bangsue Police Station’s inquiry officials, headed by deputy police chief Pol. Gen. Priewphan Damaphong, are in the process of further inquiring the alleged offender’s witnesses.
As the accused, I want to point out that the witnesses’ statements expressed during the inquiry process may impact every side and that the charge of lese majeste has been abused to reap political ends. Concerning the latter point, I faced the charge of lese majeste in August 2006 because I had criticized the administration of the Thaksin Shinawatra government. My interview in Fah Diew Kan was published since October 2005, and this issue of the magazine had been in circulation for a considerable time. The interview was also translated into the foreign languages, and likewise was circulated in intellectual circles worldwide. I affirm that the views I expressed there concerning the monarchy are academic and sincere. I wanted to protect the monarchy from being exploited as a political tool by numerous groups, and wanted to point out the threats (symbolic as well as concrete) undermining the monarchy. For this I was accused of lese majeste. The complainant did not carefully examine the whole interview, for it is clear that if the interview was fully read my intention to academically analyze the facts in order to protect the monarchy could not have been missed. Most importantly, in the royal speech delivered on 4 December 2005 H.M. the King expresses his desire to terminate the charge of lese majeste. In one part of the royal speech, the king states,
If the king is violated, the king himself is in trouble….in trouble in many ways. One, foreigners say in Thailand one can’t criticize the king, that if they can’t criticize and go to jail. There are some who go to jail, which troubles the king, who must say, after the jailing, to forgive them for insulting me severely. Farangs say in Thailand, when the king gets insulted, [the offender] must go to jail.
Indeed, they should go to jail. But because the farangs say so, [we] won’t let them go to jail. Nobody dares put the guy who insults the king in jail, because the king is troubled. They say the king is a bad person , or at least easily excitable. When someone criticizes [him] a little, [he] says to put them in jail. In fact, the king’s never said to put them in jail. In previous reigns, rebels were not even jailed…not punished. King Rama VI did not punish, did not punish the rebels. In the Ninth Reign, rebels…are treated in the same way…not put to jail. [They are] released or are first imprisoned but then released.
Seen in its entirety, the royal speech shows that the king does not want to institute actions against those charged with lese majeste. In my case, since Pol. Gen. Priewphan Damaphong, the head of the inquiry panel, is a relative of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra the dice is already loaded. Moreover, in the eyes of the international community, the reputation of the kingdom in terms of human rights will be severely impacted because the case was instituted under the former government, which greatly limited academic freedom or the freedom of expression in general. International human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch will surely protest against the case and publicize it worldwide. Therefore, should this case drag on indeterminably, the masses may be incited and mobilized (both supporting and protesting against the case), leading to hostility, social antagonism, and even violence, thereby jeopardizing the peace, orderliness, and security of the country.
Therefore, I write to ask you to find a way to end the case at the level of inquiry officials by terminating the inquiry process or ordering the discontinuation of the prosecution of case ป . วิ อาญา ม. ๑๔๒ . Relevant officials should inform the inquiry officials to drop this politically charged and spiteful case, a case that will adversely impact the monarchy. The charge of lese majeste must no longer be used as a tool to silence or destroy political opponents.
Furthermore, the country now requires a favorable climate for reconciliation. Carrying on with the case will surely be detrimental to society at large.
(The alleged offender)
To be truly religious is not to reject society but to work for social justice and change. Religion is at the heart of social change, and this change is an essence of religion. The teachings of Buddha have much more to offer to mitigate sufferings of both humans and nature in the world. If one is worth living, there are ways one can live.
This was the crux of the talk on the challenges and prospects of Buddhism given by Sulak Sivaraksa from Thailand at the conference hall of the Centre for Bhutan Studies on 23 August.
He is a teacher, a scholar, a publisher, an activist, founder of many organizations and author of more than hundred books and monographs. He is among the handful of leaders world-wide working to revive the socially engaged aspects of spirituality and was granted the Right Livelihood Award, also known as Alternative Noble Prize in 1995.
According to Sivaraksa, 21st century is the century of spirituality. Otherwise the world would have been destroyed. Buddhism plays a vital role in Asia especially in South and South East Asia, not only spiritually but also morally, socially and ecologically. Simplicity guides one to be mindful of materialism and sensual pleasures.
Bhutan has developed the concept of Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product, which will help in the post-modern era, realizing that what they wanted is happiness, not money nor power.
Sulak envisions a future built on traditional wisdom and culture. Bhutan is unique in this regard.
“We must chain our society to be transparent and accountable. One cannot practice good politics without being a spiritual person,” said Sulak.
During the 1970s, Sulak became a central figure in a number of NGOs in Thailand. He said, “Whatever you do, don’t do it out of selfish motives but out of understanding and kindness. Itีs you who decide.”
from Bhutan Observer
Saturday August 25, 2006
Filed under: Engaged Spirituality, Human Rights, Siamese History, Thai Politics
AMID all that is ailing Thai society now, Sulak Sivaraksa stands out as its voice of conscience.
He seems like a ray of light, albeit too glaring sometimes, that keeps the moral compass intact.
At 73, he is still viewed by most people as one of Thailand’s more outspoken and respected social activists and scholars.
Here’s a man who has been twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize; a man whom Thaksin Shinawatra, who usually does not hold his tongue against his critics, has not retaliated at all against despite Sulak’s constant attacks of him.
“He has not criticised me publicly. Not even privately, according to those from within his circle,” Sulak said in an interview.
Mind you, he has stinging remarks of Thaksin, even calling him a dog at one point.
“People know that I have no political aspiration. Even if I had wanted to be a prime minister, I would not have become one,” he said, laughing.
Sulak, according to a friend of his who has known him for decades, has deep moral integrity but no personal agenda, no desire for material benefits.
“He is inspired by Gandhi and the Dalai Lama is one of the many international figures who know him well,” said this friend.
During the interview, Sulak did not hold back his views about the way Buddhism was being practised in Thailand.