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05BANGKOK1774 OPPOSITION MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FACES LESE MAJESTE CHARGES

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“28486”,”3/10/2005 10:43″,”05BANGKOK1774″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

 

“CONFIDENTIAL”,”

“,”This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.”,

“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001774

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/10/2015

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH, Political Parties

SUBJECT: OPPOSITION MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FACES LESE MAJESTE

CHARGES

 

Classified By: Political Counselor Robert J. Clarke, Reason: 1.4, (b)

 

1. (U) Summary. A respected opposition Member of Parliament

(MP), Khunying Kallaya Sophonpanich, has been summoned for

questioning by Thai police on charges of lese majeste. Four

others were questioned, including Democrat Party

parliamentary candidate Thanom Onkhetpol, who lost in the

February 6 general election, and three party workers. The

charges are based on a complaint filed by the government Thai

Rak Thai (TRT) Party candidate who opposed Thanom and who

reported to police in mid-January that Democrat Party (DP)

campaign stickers reportedly used by Thanom illegally quoted

Thailand\’s revered King and Queen. End Summary.

 

2. (U) On March 8, Khunying Kallaya Sophonpanich, Thanom

Onkhetpol and three Democrat Party workers appeared at the

Metropolitan Bangkok Police Division 1 at the request of the

police and public prosecutor, who are investigating lese

majeste charges filed against them by Thai Rak Thai MP Sita

Divari. The accused appeared with former DP Party Leader

Banyat Bantadtan, who recently stepped down following his

party\’s defeat in February 6 general elections. Also present

was DP MP and prominent defense attorney Phichet

Phanvichartkul. (Note: The DP won only 96 of the total 500

seats in the lower house of Thailand\’s Parliament. The

ruling TRT party won 377. End note.)

 

3. (U) Under the Penal Code of Thailand, \”Whoever defames,

insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent

or the Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to

fifteen years.\” The charges in this case are based on

campaign stickers (reportedly similar in size to a US style

bumper sticker) printed and paid for by the local office of

the DP in Bangkok\’s Klong Toey constituency. Three quotes are

used in the stickers, according to newspaper accounts. The

first is an excerpt from a speech given by Queen Sirikit,

\”Poverty is no disgrace, while evil and fraud are disgusting

and disgraceful.\” The other two excerpts are from speeches

given by King Bhumibol. \”The richer people are, the more they

cheat,\” and \”Anyone who cheats (or is corrupt), even just a

little bit, may that person be cursed.\” The complaint by MP

Sita apparently alleges that the DP did not receive

permission to print the quotes and that the DP is using the

revered words of the monarchy for political gain. Khunying

Kalaya is accused of ordering the printing and distribution

of the stickers in the role of senior politician assisting

the campaign of Thanom.

 

4. (U) It\’s unclear to most legal experts how this can be

construed as defaming the monarch as the quotes are taken

from public speeches and there is no prohibition on quoting

the King or Queen in public. Initial news reports indicated

that the stickers actually had no political party

identification, although Poloffs have never seen the stickers

or even pictures of them. In fact the stickers have never

been shown up close in public, since anyone who now shows the

stickers could also be accused of lese majeste. The police

stated they had already interviewed 18 witnesses before

questioning the accused. After taking statements of the 5

persons named in the complaint, the public prosecutor could

now decide whether to ask the police to issue arrest

warrants. In that case, Khunying Kalaya would be immune from

arrest during parliamentary sessions.

 

5. (U) Khunying Kalaya, who had the title of \”Khunying\”

bestowed on her over 10 years ago in part in recognition of

her philanthropic works through Royally-sponsored projects

for children\’s\’ books and encyclopedias, appears undeterred

in her efforts to fight the charges. During a local

television interview on the front steps of the police station

where she was interrogated, Khunying Kalaya stated, \”I will

be put in prison or even die in order to uphold justice and

the preservation of a true constitutional monarchy.\”

Democrat party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva earlier pledged to

cooperate with the investigation but expressed concern that

evidence used by the police had not been presented to the

Democrat Party or their lawyers in order to help them mount a

fair defense.

 

6. (C) Comment: Use of this arcane but very important tenet

of Thai criminal law by a government parliamentary candidate

for political retribution is disturbing. This tactic, which

likely had to be approved at the highest levels of TRT

leadership to proceed this far, seems unnecessary and

vindictive after the TRT electoral landslide and surprise

sweep of the MP constituency races in Bangkok. We are

watching closely as someone clearly dedicated to Thailand\’s

revered monarch and to public service is drawn into a legal

spectacle. Privately, many Thais have expressed to us their

hope that Khunying Kalaya\’s palace connections will find a

way to have the charges dropped. End comment.

 

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 6, 2011 at 7:48 am

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