A number of New Mandala readers (including one journalist who is “frustrated to a degree that is hard to bear”) have drawn my attention to the proposed changes to Thailand’s lese majeste laws. Yahoo News carries one report:
Thailand, which strictly enforces laws protecting the monarchy, plans to extend protection to royal advisers and other members of the royal family and restrict media coverage of cases, lawmakers said on Monday. Under the proposed amendments, to be debated by the army-appointed parliament on Wednesday, journalists could be jailed for three years and fined 60,000 baht ($1,750) for ignoring a court-ordered publication ban. “We don’t want any offence to the monarch to be repeated in the news or become an issue of any criticism” inside or outside Thailand, Supreme Court chief judge Pornpetch Wichitcholchai told Reuters. Those protected by the expanded law would include sons and daughters of the monarch and royal advisers known as privy councillors, Pornpetch said. “The current law doesn’t cover privy councillors, some of whom have become political victims,” he said.
Another report states:
The NLA members also seek to amend the Criminal Procedure Code to restrict media coverage of lese majeste cases. In the course of the investigation, the hearing, the trial of cases against people charged with offences against the King, the Queen, the heir to the throne or the regent, investigators, the prosecution, or the plaintiff may ask the court to prohibit all kinds of media from publicising information on the cases, or expressing criticism or opinions on them.
I will leave it to other more legally informed minds to dissect the differences between the proposed and existing lese majeste provisions. But the attempt to restrict reporting of cases seems particularly interesting. As the recent contributions to Youtube demonstrate, a good way of drawing attention to royally damaging material is to accuse others of peddling it. The Youtube videos are nicely double barrelled – explicitly attacking Privy Councillor Prem while also stoking the fires of curiosity about the material Prem is alleged to have circulated about the crown prince. Royal defenders now find themselves in a difficult position. Some of the most potentially damaging material appearing on the internet (the extraordinary birthday party video in particular) appears to have impeccable provenance. Pursuing the producer(s) of this material would be counter-productive as enquiries would probably end up in the royal household itself. All that those defending the royal image can hope for is that a sufficiently tight media lid can be kept on the whole affair.