In the post “On the judgment of Da Torpedo,” New Mandala posted an English-language summary of the segments of the court decision against Darunee Charnchoengsilpakul that referred to the statements she made which contained alleged lesè majesté content. The court decision was published in full in the most recent edition of р╕Яр╣Йр╕▓р╣Ар╕Фр╕╡р╕вр╕зр╕Бр╕▒р╕Щ (Same Sky) journal. The summary covers the first 15 pages of the decision (pages 1-15 of the decision, pages 200-214 of the journal). As the author of the summary noted, the transmission of these statements only constituted part of the full judgment, which has a total length of 32 pages.
In the second half of the court decision, the ‘evidence’ presented in the first half is repeated and extended in order to support the judgment against Darunee. The method by which this is done offers a lens on the practices of interpretation exercised under the regime of the laws pertaining to lesè majesté and the constriction of speech. During the first half, as Darunee’s statements are recounted (based, significantly, on mp3 and video recordings made by two police officers named in the text of the court decision), who or what specifically she refers to by various phrases is interpreted by the court through the use of a series of phrases such as “meaning” (р╕лр╕бр╕▓р╕вр╕Цр╕╢р╕З) and “insinuate” (р╣Ар╕Ыр╕гр╕╡р╕вр╕Ър╣Ар╕Ыр╕гр╕в), among others. Darunee does not mention King Bhumipol, Queen Sirikit, or Prem Tinsulanonda. So the first half of the text of the court decision follows a pattern in which Darunee’s statements are quoted, and then assigned meaning by the court. The court, in other words, alleges that she is referring to specific individuals. At this point, the text of the decision is primarily about the sheer content of Darunee’s speech.
On page 20 of the court decision (page 219 of the journal), there is a shift in the court decision from summary and basic assigning of meaning to the content of Darunee’s words to assigning intention to them. The reason for this, the authors note, is that there are two primary issues which must be examined by the court in the context of Thailand being a democracy with the king as head of state. The first issue to consider is whether or not the defendant, Darunee Charnchoengsilpakul, is the person who made the statements under discussion. The second is whether or not she committed lesè majesté.
With respect to the first issue, the court decision explains how the evidence was gathered and evaluated. The witnesses listened to her speeches at Sanam Luang, made audio and video recordings, and presented them as evidence. In the opinion of the court, the police officers who made the recordings did not do so out of personal anger or disagreement with Darunee. In the opinion of the court, the person who is in the various recordings is the same person, and they believe there is sufficient evidence to indicate that it is Darunee.
It is the second issue which is both thornier, and where the actions of the court, at least as represented in the text of the statement, become murkier. What the court is assessing at this point is intention, or р╣Ар╕Ир╕Хр╕Щр╕▓, and what Darunee intended during her speeches. The way in which her intention to slander the monarchy is demonstrated by the court follows a pattern through which her statements, already discussed in the first half of the court decision, are revisited and interpreted further. In order to do this, the court must acknowledge that Darunee does not name the King, Queen, or Prem by name. One example of this is on page 24 of the court decision (page 223 of the journal): “Even though the defendant does not clearly mention any individual by name, the fact is that the prosecutor has brought evidence that makes it possible to interpret that the defendant meant the King and Queen Sirikit” (“р╣Бр╕бр╣Йр╣Йр╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╕Ир╕░р╕бр╕┤р╣Др╕Фр╣Йр╕гр╕░р╕Ър╕╕р╕Кр╕╖р╣Ир╕нр╕Ър╕╕р╕Др╕Др╕ер╕лр╕Щр╕╢р╣Ир╕Зр╕Ър╕╕р╕Др╕Др╕ер╣Гр╕Фр╣Вр╕Фр╕вр╕Кр╕▒р╕Фр╣Бр╕Ир╣Йр╕З р╣Бр╕Хр╣Ир╕Вр╣Йр╕нр╣Ар╕Чр╕Ир╕Ир╕гр╕┤р╕Зр╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╣Вр╕Ир╕Чр╕Бр╣Мр╕Щр╕│р╕кр╕╖р╕Ър╕Бр╣Зр╣Бр╕Ыр╕ер╣Ар╕Ир╕Хр╕Щр╕▓р╕Вр╕нр╕Зр╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╣Др╕Фр╣Йр╕зр╣Ир╕▓ р╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╕Бр╕ер╣Ир╕▓р╕зр╣Вр╕Фр╕вр╕бр╕╕р╣Ир╕Зр╕лр╕бр╕▓р╕вр╕Цр╕╢р╕Зр╕нр╕Зр╕Др╣Мр╕Юр╕гр╕░р╕Ър╕▓р╕Чр╕кр╕бр╣Ар╕Фр╣Зр╕Ир╕Юр╕гр╕░р╣Ар╕Ир╣Йр╕▓р╕нр╕вр╕╣р╣Ир╕лр╕▒р╕з”). Then again, on page 31 of the court decision (page 230 of the journal), “The defendant does not clearly state who she means by the term ruling class, but after examining all of her spoken statements, (we) are confident that this saying of the defendant refers to the monarchy” (“р╕Др╕│р╕зр╣Ир╕▓р╕Кр╕Щр╕Кр╕▒р╣Йр╕Щр╕Ыр╕Бр╕Др╕гр╕нр╕Зр╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╕Бр╕ер╣Ир╕▓р╕зр╣Бр╕бр╣Йр╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╕Ир╕░р╣Др╕бр╣Ир╣Др╕Фр╣Йр╕гр╕░р╕Ър╕╕р╕Кр╕▒р╕Фр╣Ар╕Ир╕Щ р╣Бр╕Хр╣Ир╣Ар╕бр╕╖р╣Ир╕нр╕Юр╕┤р╕Ир╕▓р╕гр╕Ур╕▓р╕Вр╣Йр╕нр╕Др╕зр╕▓р╕бр╕Чр╕╡р╣Ир╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╕Бр╕ер╣Ир╕▓р╕зр╕Чр╕▒р╣Йр╕Зр╕лр╕бр╕Фр╣Бр╕ер╣Йр╕з р╣Ар╕Кр╕╖р╣Ир╕нр╕зр╣Ир╕▓р╕Др╕│р╕Бр╕ер╣Ир╕▓р╕зр╕Вр╕нр╕Зр╕Ир╕│р╣Ар╕ер╕вр╕лр╕бр╕▓р╕вр╕Цр╕╢р╕Зр╕кр╕Цр╕▓р╕Ър╕▒р╕Щр╕Юр╕гр╕░р╕бр╕лр╕▓р╕Бр╕йр╕▒р╕Хр╕гр╕┤р╕вр╣М”).
In the next to last paragraph, the court decision notes that Darunee herself said that she did not have the intention to slander or insult the monarchy, but that the court’s review of evidence did not match up with this claim. On the basis of the court’s interpretation of the meaning of Darunee Charnchoengsilpakul’s statements, she was sentenced to eighteen years in prison. Reports so far indicate that she is suffering greatly in prison.
Writing in a much different context – that of state terror and repression in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s – Michael Taussig wrote in The Nervous System that, “… I came to feel that terror dissolved certainty every bit as much as it preyed on one’s heartfelt desire to find its secret order. Yet the more one looked for order, the more one was caught in its sticky web of evasions, bluffs, and halls of mirrors. And the more one tried to bluff back, fighting indeterminacy with indeterminacy, there waiting in the wings was Order with a giant rabbit-killer. Here, interpretation was no esoteric practice of the literary critic but a matter of survival.” When the evidence used to justify an eighteen-year prison sentence rests on the interpretation of someone’s speech, interpretation has also become a matter of survival. If Darunee Charnchoengsilpakul can be imprisoned under these terms, so can others. One extension of the kind of logic employed against Darunee in the court decision is that by sheer virtue of the existence of the court decision, the court presents itself as just. But is it? I close by calling for a proliferation of interpretations of the court decision. This has already started to happen in Thai in the same issue of р╕Яр╣Йр╕▓р╣Ар╕Фр╕╡р╕вр╕зр╕Бр╕▒р╕Щ (Same Sky) journal in which the court decision was reprinted. It is time to do so in English and other languages as well.[The author can be contacted at [email protected]]