#thaistory: Thailand’s moment of truth




An in-depth, 228-page investigation of the decades-old political crisis which has, over and over, plagued Thailand, and how the monarchy, rather than offering the solutions, is instead aggravating the situation, the most recent of which is the reintroduction of military rule throughout the whole nation, and why this, if no compromise is formulated, will blow the country apart.

Download the full report from Zen Journalist, a blog run by Andrew MacGregor Marshall, former senior editor at Reuters.




Of all the world’s countries, Thailand is among those for which the publication of the U.S. embassy cables could have potentially the most profound impact. All nations have their secrets and lies. There is always a gulf between the narrative constructed by those in power, and the real story. But the dissonance between Thailand’s official ideology and the reality is particularly stark and troubling. Suthep Thaugsuban, a senior (and notoriously corrupt) Thai politician, blithely claimed in December 2010 that the cables would have no impact on the country:

We don’t have any secrets… What happens in Thailand, we tell the media and the people.

His comments could scarcely be further from the truth. Thailand is a nation of secrets, and most of the biggest secrets are those involving the Thai monarchy. The palace is at the centre of an idealized narrative of the Thai nation and of what it means to be Thai, which depicts the country as a uniquely blessed kingdom in which nobody questions the established order.

Thais are well aware that the truth is very different — they could hardly be otherwise, following the violent political crisis that has engulfed their country — and yet many continue to suspend their disbelief and, at least publicly, to profess their faith in the official myths. Most feel unable to voice the truth, due partly to immense social pressure in a society where to question the official story is to be regarded as “un-Thai”, and partly to some of the strictest defamation laws in the world. At the heart of the legal structure protecting the official myth is the lèse majesté law. Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code states: “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” A law originally intended to shield the monarchy from insults and slander has become something far more: it is increasingly used to prevent any questioning of Thailand’s established social and political order. As historian David Streckfuss says in the foremost academic work on the subject, Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, Treason, and Lèse Majesté: “Never has such an archaic law held such sway over a ‘modern’ society (except perhaps ‘Muslim’ theocracies like Afghanistan under the Taliban)”:

Thailand’s use of the lèse majesté law has become unique in the world and its elaboration and justifications have become an art. The law’s defenders claim that Thailand’s love and reverence for its king is incomparable. Its critics say the law has become the foremost threat to freedom of expression. Barely hidden beneath the surface of growing debate around the law and its use are the most basic issues defining the relationship between those in power and the governed: equality before the law, rights and liberties, the source of sovereign power, and even the system of government of the polity — whether Thailand is to be primarily a constitutional monarchy, a democratic system of governance with the king as head of state, or a democracy.


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