With mounting speculation that Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej will resign the Australian Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, has cautioned against anti-democratic intervention. In an interview with Sky News he said:
…we hope that the Thai political system will work its way through…we certainly hope that it will resolve itself politically through the parliamentary and democratic institutions and the last thing we want to see is an intervention by the military…We welcome very much Thailand moving back to a democracy…
This is consistent with last year’s ministerial statement welcoming the return of democracy to Thailand before the 23 December 2007 elections. And it follows the previous Australian government’s concern over the military coup that deposed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. From the good offices of Barton there is consistent support for the continuation of democratic government in one of Australia’s key Southeast Asian partners.
This at a time when, according to a number of reports, an Australian university lecturer named Harry Nicolaides, who has worked in Chiang Rai province and in the south, has been arrested for lèse majesté. The specifics of the charge appear, by my reading, to be unclear but may well focus on his 2005 novel, Verisimilitude: Is the truth, the truth?
No doubt all the relevant people are trying to find out exactly what Nicolaides has allegedly done. Nobody seems to know if his arrest is tied up with the current political crisis or whether it is, in fact, entirely unrelated and thus coincidental.
New Mandala readers who know more are very welcome to chime in with their two cents. In particular, any readers with a copy of the book close to hand may be able to give all of us some extra information on its contents and agenda.
Update: Harry Nicolaides recently wrote a provocative article that is available here. It is not for the squeamish and deals with some confronting subject matter. Nonetheless it may give some insight into the man who now languishes behind bars.