S. Sivaraksa


Stopping the Prosecution
December 19, 2006, 10:04 am
Filed under: Human Rights, Siamese History, Thai Politics

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.

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  • After considering the statements of the witnesses for both the defense and prosecution, and the complete transcripts of the defendant’s speech, most fair-minded people would question why the defendant had been charged, what was the defendant’s intention, and toward whom was his public talk directed. We cannot only consider literally what he said. We can see clearly that the intention of the talk was to make the students and the people aware so they would be awakened to resist the unjust authority of the NPKC [National Peace-keeping Council] in seizing power from an elected government and its attempts to prolong its hold on power. The talk also tried to clarify the basic principles of democracy, liberty, and equality of the people. No group should use the monarch to serve their own political purposes, and the military groups which have seized power have violated these basic principles throughout the history of Thai democracy. The defendant also denounced the validity of the five points the NPKC used as an excuse for staging the coup. He also condemned individuals and groups that were submissive to the NPKC as having a part in destroying Thailand’s reputation within the international community.

    When considering the first and the second phrases that the prosecution charged as lese majeste within the context of the complete talk, it is clear that the defendant sought to teach the students to be conscious of the essence of democracy which has the King as head of state. He warned the students not to live a luxurious, consumer-oriented lifestyle, not to worship being rich, not to admire people in power, and to be concerned about justice and righteousness.

    My case during the Thaksin Shinawatra government is similar to the one during the time of Suchinda Kraprayoon. Both leaders were equally tyrannical. Both employed devious legal means to penalize me. I have already warned the inquiry officials to use their judgment wisely based on the final court decision cited above; that is, “within the context of the complete talk, it is clear that the defendant sought to teach the students to be conscious of the essence of democracy which has the King as head of state. He warned the students not to live a luxurious, consumer-oriented lifestyle, not to worship being rich, not to admire people in power, and to be concerned about justice and righteousness.

    In the light of my protest against the construction of the Thai-Burmese gas pipeline on 6 March 1998, I struggled to show that every government had abused power by secretly allowing the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) to destroy the natural environment without undertaking an environmental impact assessment. The trial ended on 18 August 2006. The court acquitted all the defendants, including me. The court even praised me thus:

    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.

    I must emphasize that the first trial lasted four years and the second one seven years. Although in both cases the court not only acquitted but also praised me, I must say that the trials consumed a lot of time and money. And my family, relatives, and close associates were psychologically spent though I was granted bail in both cases.

    As for the latest case, the charge was filed one day before the coup d’etat. The Royal Thai Police sent a warrant to my office, declaring that Pol. Gen. Charan Chittapunya had accused me of committing lese majeste following the publication of my article in Seeds of Peace (Vol. 21, No. 1, January-April 2005).

    The tyrant was overthrown. But the Royal Thai Police is still pursuing the case against me. It continues to summon numerous individuals as witnesses.

    More important, the King made it clear that any charge of lese majeste filed would hurt him as well as the monarchy. The Royal Thai Police insists that it is a loyal subject but acts contrarily.

    The latest case was expanded, now also involving an English magazine in my network. Previous charges of lese majeste had never involved a foreign language publication. In a royal speech, the King once stated, “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.

    I must stress that pursuing my case to the end will have far-reaching ramifications. The plaintiffs (Pol. Gen. Charan Chittapunya and the Royal Thai Police) are not the only one who will be in trouble because the case involves an English material; as stated earlier, it will be an unprecedented move. And if that English article is translated into the Thai language, the case will gain further publicity, attracting the interest of those who do not read English. At the international level, it is well-known that I have long been seen as a defender of the Thai monarchy.

    As John Ralston Saul, a world-renowned writer who was also appointed to the Order of Canada, writes in his personal letter to me: “I’ve just read your April 2006 talk—the Monarchy and the Constitution. It is a very fine piece, which lays out the sort of parameters of justice with which so many countries and systems have struggled. In historic term, it is the perfect argument for a constitutional monarchy. People in other countries could learn from this approach.

    It also must be pointed out that in the latest lese majeste case against me eight other individuals were summoned as witnesses. It seemed that the police chose the eight names blindly, carelessly, and randomly, eliciting little compassion for ordinary citizens. For instance, Mr. Thepsiri Suksopha, who works in Chiangmai province, was asked to come to Bangkok to testify in the case. He drew a picture of Direk Jayanama and Kularb Saipradit (to celebrate their birth centenaries) on the cover of that Seeds of Peace issue. The police thought that it was a picture of Kings Rama VIII and IX.

    The things I have stated thus far constitute an important national affair which is linked to the monarchy. I am not sure to what extent the civil servants in the Royal Thai Police and in the Office of the Prime Minister do actually understand their importance even though some of them may have good intentions. I therefore ask Mr. Prime Minister to read my letter and reply personally. (When Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat was premier he personally read and responded to the letter of Phya Saraphaipipat who was an oppositional voice. And when Anand Panyarachun was premier he also personally read and directly responded to my letters.) I also ask Mr. Prime Minister to have moral courage and to personally and immediately take action bypassing the bureaucratic red-tapes.

    Yours respectfully,
    Sulak Sivaraksa
    (The alleged offender)

    P.S.

    I would like to paraphrase the words of Phya Manavarachasewi, the last Director General of the Office of the Attorney General during absolutism, President of the National Assembly during the Eighth Reign, and one of the Regents to the present King, who stated that it is easy to legally penalize a writer or publisher, but governing a country is based not only on the law but also on the principles of political science, emphasizing legitimacy and the permission of criticism.

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