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Thai socialist academic charged with offending royal dignity

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Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn is fighting charges of lèse majesté (offending the dignity of a sovereign) over his book A Coup for the Rich, an academic work on the 2006 military coup.
Issue 2134

Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn is fighting charges of lèse majesté (offending the dignity of a sovereign) over his book A Coup for the Rich, an academic work on the 2006 military coup.

In Thailand lèse majesté is a serious charge that can lead to a prison sentence of between three and 15 years.

Giles says, ‘I have been summonsed to Pathumwan police station for questioning at 10am on Tuesday 20 January. The summons was issued as a result of a charge filed by Special Branch Police Lt Col Pansak Sasana-anund.’

Just after publication, his book was withdrawn from sale by Chulalongkorn University bookshop and later by Thammasat University bookshop, both in Bangkok.

Giles thinks the charge is a gross attack on academic freedom. He says, ‘I encourage people to read my book and judge for themselves whether I should face criminal charges over this. Relevant passages can be found in Chapter 1, pages 15, 23-27 and Chapter 2.

‘My most recent academic paper on the monarchy appears on my blog. It argues that the monarchy is not all powerful and that political and military factions claim Royal legitimacy in order to boost their own power and interests.

‘Their recent actions may be bringing the institution of the monarchy into crisis because they have created an image of the monarchy being directly involved in politics.

‘I presented a Thai version of this paper at the National Thai Political Science Conference at Chulalongkorn University in December 2008.’

The monarchy has been quoted and used by various political factions in Thailand to legitimise their actions. The most notable cases are the 19 September 2006 military coup and the illegal protests by the yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy, which included violent protests and the shutting down the international airports.

Lèse majesté charges in Thailand are notorious for being used by different political factions to attack their opponents. Many believe that this law is actually counter-productive to defending the Monarchy. This is why it is very important that political scientists attempt to analyse the real role and nature of the Thai Monarchy in an atmosphere of freedom and democracy.

I am prepared to fight any lèse majesté charges in order to defend academic freedom, the freedom of expression and democracy in Thailand.

Since this accusation was filed by a Special Branch officer, the present Democrat Party Government should be questioned about its role in this and many other cases.

The new Prime Minister has stated that he wants to see a firm crackdown on lèse majesté and many recent cases have been filed by the police.

What you can do to help Giles Ji Ungpakorn:

  1. Write a letter of protest/concern to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Government House, Bangkok, Thailand. Fax number +66 (0)29727751
  2. Write a letter of protest/concern to the Ambassador, The Royal Thai Embassy, in your country
  3. Demand that Amnesty International take up all Lèse majesté cases in Thailand.
  4. Demand the abolition of the lèse majesté law.

The print edition of A Coup for the Rich is sold out, but it can be downloaded from Giles Ji Ungpakorn’s blog », and from the International Socialism journal website » [440kb PDF]


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