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08BANGKOK3350 QUESTIONING THE UNQUESTIONABLE? UPTICK IN ONLINE ANGER AT ROYALS AS THAI ARMY, POLICE ADDRESS LESE MAJESTE

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“177837″,”11/12/2008 7:08″,”08BANGKOK3350″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

 

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SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP, DRL, IO; NSC FOR PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/31/2018

TAGS: PHUM, PGOV, KPAO, TH

SUBJECT: QUESTIONING THE UNQUESTIONABLE? UPTICK IN ONLINE

ANGER AT ROYALS AS THAI ARMY, POLICE ADDRESS LESE MAJESTE

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 3289 (THAILAND IN TRANSITION)

B. BANGKOK 3080 (QUEEN SHOWS SUPPORT)

C. BANGKOK 2344 (FURTHER LESE MAJESTE ACCUSATIONS)

D. BANGKOK 1949 (LEADING UNIVERSITY)

E. BANGKOK 1662 (LESE MAJESTE ACCUSATIONS)

F. BANGKOK 966 (AMBASSADOR MEETS JUSTICE MINISTER)

 

BANGKOK 00003350 001.2 OF 003

 

Classified By: Ambassador Eric G. John, reason 1.4 (b, d)

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

——————-

 

1. (C) Online and open public criticism of Thai royals,

particularly of Queen Sirikit, has increased recently. Army

Commander Anupong Paojinda issued a public warning October 27

that the Army would take unspecified steps against people

committing lese majeste, or offense to the monarchy. A

high-ranking Royal Thai Police official publicly referred to

32 ongoing lese majeste investigations by his bureau,

although the total number of cases in process nationwide is

greater. Pro-Thaksin activist Jakrapob Penkair told us that

he and others are actively seeking to shape perceptions of

the monarchy in order to facilitate transforming the

institution into a more ceremonial one after the death of

King Bhumibol. Two United Front of Democracy Against

Dictatorship (UDD) figures accused of lese majeste have been

detained for months without bail, causing several other

activists to leave Thailand out of concern they, too, might

be arrested.

 

2. (C) Comment: The Army Commander\’s statement indicates that

lese majeste offenses are not viewed simply as criminal acts

but as a threat to Thailand\’s supreme institution. The rise

in high-profile lese majeste cases, the frequency of online

remarks bordering on lese majeste, and the seriousness of the

authorities\’ response indicates that some segments of society

are highly dissatisfied with the behavior of some members of

the royal family, if not the institution itself. If the

authorities were to harshly repress critics of the monarchy,

this could prove counterproductive, as quiet discourse in

many circles could shift from mere gossip about some royals\’

distasteful behavior to a more weighty questioning of the

monarchy\’s role after the death of widely-beloved King

Bhumibol (ref A). Septel will provide updates on higher

profile lese majeste cases currently underway. End Summary

and Comment.

 

ROYAL BEHAVIOR TO BLAME FOR SURGE IN CRITICISM?

——————————————— –

 

3. (C) After Queen Sirikit presided over the October 13

funeral of a People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protestor

killed during an October 7 clash with police (ref B), public

criticism of the Queen increased notably. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX told us that critical

online comments posted XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX spiked, and overall

traffic toXXXXXXXXXXXX increased from 10,000 hits per day to

30,000 hits.

 

4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXXX who has been XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

material previously published XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, told us XXX

spent much of his time cleansing XXXX website of content that

could lead to further lese majeste accusations, such as: nude

photos of the Crown Prince\’s consort, including video clips

of an infamous birthday party (ref C); multiple postings

ranting about the Crown Prince\’s lewd sexual behavior; photos

(that XXXXXXXX suspected to be digitally edited) of the Queen

wearing what appears to be a famous stolen Saudi blue

diamond; and multiple links to other sites with purported

evidence linking the royal family to the stolen Saudi jewelry

(ref F). To his surprise, people even posted comments

speculating about King Bhumibol\’s involvement in his

brother\’s death, some going as far as to suggest that

Bhumibol shot then-King Ananda. Posters also drew upon

Forbes magazine\’s recent report claiming the King\’s assets

topped $35 billion, decrying the monarchy\’s wealth as a

result of generations of extortion, and calling the upcoming

royal funeral of the King\’s elder sister as a waste of

taxpayer money.

 

BANGKOK 00003350 002.2 OF 003

 

5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (protect), subject of an

ongoing XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (ref D), spoke with us on

November 3 from the northeastern province of Udon Thani,

where he said people raged publicly against the Queen in a

manner he had never witnessed before. \”The Queen ripped up

the rule book when she attended the (PAD) funeral,\” he said,

adding that he remained uncertain how to incorporate recent

interviews into XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX without becoming the

subject of additional lese majeste investigations. Many of

the people he interviewed in Udon Thani complained that the

royal family had not devoted similar attention to three

locals (whom we presume were members of the security forces)

killed in recent violence by southern insurgents.

 

UDD SCRUTINIZED FOR LESE MAJESTE, WITH CAUSE

——————————————–

 

6. (C) Jakrapob Penkair, discussing his lese majeste case

with us on October 3, said he expected to be convicted and

imprisoned. This marked a change from mid-August, when he

thought that legal action would ultimately stall short of a

court conviction. He described his current efforts as

focused on grass-roots education of Thai citizens, \”preparing

the way\” for eventual royal succession on terms favorable to

his political force. While others on the Thaksin team

focused on near term political matters, his efforts were

mid-term, using new media like the internet and old tactics

like whisper campaigns in small town barbershops and beauty

parlors, to frame the issue of the proper role of the

monarchy in 21st century Thailand. Jakrapob envisioned a

small, ceremonial institution as in Japan and Sweden.

Jakrapob did not hide his disdain for the Queen when talking

to us, and said that he was counting on her to overreach and

overreact.

 

7. (C) Suspects associated with the pro-Thaksin UDD are

receiving strict scrutiny. Police have denied bail to two

UDD figures, prompting two others charged with lese majeste

to flee abroad after police obtained warrants for their

arrests. Assessing the seriousness of the alleged offenses

is difficult since in most cases, no public records of the

offending remarks are available; any person or media outlet

that reproduces the offending content would also be at risk

for lese majeste charges. A credible NGO contact told us the

tone of UDD figures\’ remarks was unusually strong, showing

\”open vengeance against the monarchy, scaring everyone.\”

 

ARMY INSERTS ITSELF IN THE LESE MAJESTE WATCH

———————————————

 

8. (SBU) Army Commander General Anupong Paojinda warned Thai

citizens of the dangers associated with criticizing the

monarchy in a televised press conference on October 27.

According to an English-language daily, Anupong said, \”There

must be no cases of contempt or disrespectful acts toward the

monarchy. The Army will take action using every means

against any person or group acting in contempt of or being

disrespectful toward the monarchy.\” Anupong\’s remarks

appeared to be a direct response to the recent increased

criticism of the monarchy.

 

9. (SBU) Note: The Thai criminal code outlaws lese majeste,

but there is no legal basis for the Army to take action

against those committing that crime. The Constitution

specifies, however, that the King concurrently holds the

position of head of the Thai Armed Forces. The Internal

Security Act does provide that the Internal Security

Operations Command (ISOC), an interagency body headed by the

Prime Minister with the Army Commander as his deputy, is

supposed to, among other tasks, \”encourage people to be aware

of their duty in upholding nation, religion, and King.\”

 

10. (C) UDD co-leader Charan Ditthaphichai claimed to us that

most lese majeste investigations involving UDD supporters

resulted from the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC)

Task Force 6080, which focuses on offenses against the

monarchy, reporting cases to Anupong, who then forwarded them

to the police. Charan stated that Army Chief of Staff

General Prayut Chan-Ocha, a close associate of the Queen,

manages Task Force 6080 by virtue of his role as Secretary of

 

BANGKOK 00003350 003.2 OF 003

 

ISOC.

 

POLICE DISCUSS 32 ONGOING LESE MAJESTE CASES

——————————————–

 

11. (SBU) In a rare public statement detailing police

investigations of lese majeste, Police LTG Woraphong

Chiewpricha, Commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau

(CIB), disclosed to the press on October 29 that the CIB was

investigating 32 lese majeste cases. The CIB had forwarded

four cases, including Jakrapob\’s, to the Office of the

Attorney General (OAG) for further consideration. Of the 32,

15 cases originated from website content, and two resulted

from community radio programs. Our contacts believe that the

CIB handles only a relatively small fraction of the number of

lese majeste cases in progress; most cases are investigated

by the police unit that receives a les majeste complaint.

The CIB tally appears to exclude cases in which figures are

charged with other offenses tangentially related to the

offending statements (e.g., if a community radio operator is

charged for broadcasting without a permit).

 

PAD AND DEMOCRAT PARTY FUELING THE FIRE

—————————————

 

12. (C)XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX a professor at

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, claimed to us that the PAD seeks to

use lese majeste provisions of law against the academics who

provide intellectual leadership for the UDD, cooperating with

Manager Media staff to scour newspapers and monitor public

debates for lese majeste offenses by UDD supporters.

 

13. (C) Democrat Party MP Ong-art Klampaiboon told us on

November 5 that the DP had compiled a list of 29

anti-monarchy websites on May 20 and demanded that ICT take

further legal action. The Democrats, he said, also proposed

to increase the length of imprisonment for lese majeste

charges from the current three-year minimum to 12 years and

to extend lese majeste charges beyond distributors of

anti-monarchy material to include also recipients and

enablers of such transmissions. Ong-art also confirmed that

Democrat Party MP Phiraphan Sariratuipak had drafted a law to

amend the Computer Crime Act 2005 to focus on website content

that violates lese majeste provisions.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 12:58 am

2 Responses

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  1. [...] This particular cable struck us as interesting and then Ambassador Eric John writes of concerns about the rise in lese majeste actions by the Army and Democrat Party-led government. While it includes several interesting elements, including red shirt perspectives, this section seemed particularly interesting. We do not suppose that most readers will not already know the broad outline of the Democrat Party’s political use of this draconian law. However, it is useful to have it set out: [...]

  2. [...] เคเบิ้ลฉบับนี้ ได้ทำให้เราต้องหยุดการกระทำอื่นๆ เพื่อที่อ่านเรื่องนี้ ด้วยความสนใจ และ ตัวเอกอัครราชฑูตสหรัฐประจำประเทศไทยในขณะนั้น คือ นาย อีริค จอห์น ได้เขียนถึง ความกังวลเกี่ยวกับ การนำเอากฎหมายหมิ่นพระบรมเดชานุภาพเข้ามาใช้อย่างเพิ่มขึ้น โดยทางฝ่ายทหารและฝ่ายรัฐบาลซึ่งพรรคประชาธิปัตย์เป็นแกนนำ. ในขณะทีมันรวมไปถึงองค์ประกอบที่สำคัญหลายอย่าง, รวมไปถึงมุมมองของฝ่ายเสื้อแดง, ข้อมูลส่วนนี้ ดูเสมือนว่าเป็นเรื่องที่น่าสนใจโดยเฉพาะ เราก็ขอสันนิษฐานว่า ท่านผู้อ่านส่วนใหญ่ ก็คงจะทราบเรื่องนี้อย่างกว้างๆ แล้ว ของการนำเอากฎหมายโหดๆ แบบนี้ เอาออกมาใช้โดย พรรคประชาธิปัตย์ อย่างไรก็ตาม มันก็เป็นประโยชน์ที่จะขอกล่าวไว้ ณ ที่นี้: [...]


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