Daranee “Da Torpedo” Charnchoengsilpakul (р╕Фр╕▓р╕гр╕Ур╕╡ р╕Кр╕▓р╕Нр╣Ар╕Кр╕┤р╕Зр╕ир╕┤р╕ер╕Ыр╕Бр╕╕р╕е) is currently on trial for lese majeste. Yesterday the courtroom was closed to the public by a judge who reportedly “guarantee[s] the defendant will get a fair trial”. I won’t be holding my breath. In response, Daranee made the simple point that “[t]he speech I am charged with was made at an open rally. I cannot accept that a closed trial will guarantee justice”.

This excellent Reuters report has all the details.

Prachatai has an interview with her lawyer (in Thai and English) that is also well worth a read. Political Prisoners in Thailand is, of course, following developments closely and there are other important elements of Daranee’s story available in Thai at LM Watch and at Prachatai.

There will probably be little, if any, coverage of her trial in the Thai media. However, as I have written in the past:

Experience suggests that dogged media attention [on lese majeste cases] embarrasses the palace and the Thai political elite…Such coverage will put extra pressure on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva; a man who so clearly enjoys the positive attention that world-renowned bastions of intellectual freedom can provide. But without taking the lead on reforming lese majeste his legacy will inevitably be tarnished. Abhisit’s current performance on these cases dictates that he shouldn’t expect an uncritical welcome at free Universities any time soon.

And, before anyone forgets, Suwicha Thakor is still locked up. So it is worth asking again: why isn’t the international media following up his case? Google News tells the (sad) story.

Whether the international media thinks this news-worthy or not, what is becoming abundantly clear to me is that every time a Thai citizen goes on trial for lese majeste the palace and the Prime Minister look weak and vindictive. The wave of critical ideas about the monarchy circulating in Thailand will only increase under these circumstances. There is no escaping that simple fact.

Daranee’s efforts to highlight the injustice of her lese majeste trial will hopefully be broadcast far and wide. She is an example of courage against incredible odds. She is, quite remarkably, taking on a system calibrated to deter dissent and designed to intimidate anybody who is unprepared to toe the official line. And the likely sentence if Daranee is convicted is not to be trifled with. Based on previous experience she could be sentenced to a decade in prison.

With such a sentence in prospect, her outburst proves that “Da Torpedo” remains a formidable weapon against the lese majeste law. No wonder the judge wants to avoid giving her free reign in an open court!