In Bangkok Pundit’s characteristically cautious style, there is hesitation to offer a comment on the recent Far Eastern Economic Review article by Colum Murphy. Murphy’s article examines the relationship between Thaksin and King Bhumipol.
The ambiguous, rarely enforced and, yet, much feared mechanisms associated with Thailand’s lese majeste laws leave many unwilling to venture their own analysis.
Personally, I would be delighted to read more forthright and informed (!!) pieces on Thailand’s supreme institution. Such analysis should not have to be mudslinging or gossip. I am certain Bangkok Pundit has something constructive and important to say.
We both know that anything even vaguely interesting that we do write will almost certainly not appear in books, magazines or newspapers that are published in Thailand. Foreign published books – such as The King Never Smiles – do sometimes illuminate some dark places. But such books are banned in Thailand.
To get a feel for the outrage felt by some about, for example, The King Never Smiles, the comments at the bottom of this Inside Higher Education article are instructive. One comment particularly took my fancy:
I do not have a copy of this book. Only read the review from some blogs. There is one thing that I am sure of is that NO westerners can truely understand Thai’s respect to our king. The author of this book sees Thais from his standpoint which is totally different from our standpoint. No wonder the author comes to this conclusion which extremely irritates Thais.
Ahh, my favourite playground argumentative device – the “I’m sure you don’t understand me” clause. I get annoyed with such knee-jerk put-downs. Somebody needs less time commenting on books they haven’t read, and more time reading them.
Read the book first, and then start making such big claims.
If the FEER article is any indication, lese majeste, and those who enforce it, will have a busy few months when the political crisis enters its next phase. On New Mandala, at least, lese majeste is a peripheral concern, but one with many interesting social and political implications. Without fear or favour, we will continue to call it like we see it and try to give our readers some new perspectives on the region and its development.