Thailand: Uniform protest student accused of insulting monarchy

Originally published at Siam Voices on September 17, 2013

On Monday we reported on the Thammasat University student and her provocative poster campaign against student uniforms.

Now, the controversial student known as “Aum Neko” is facing more trouble:

A TV show host has accused the student known for her campaign against mandatory uniform wearing of insulting the monarchy.

Ms. Ponnipa Supatnukul, 41, the host of a talk show called “Best of Your Life” which is broadcast on a satellite TV channel, filed the complaint to the police in Nonthaburi Province, invoking Article 112 of the Criminal Codes which criminalises insults to the Royal Family. (…)

The student, who goes by her nickname Aum Neko, was interviewed in a talk show hosted by Ms. Pontipa 3 months ago, according to Ms. Pontipa. In the show, she said, she talked to Ms. Aum and 20 other Thammasat students about the impact of economic slowdown on students′ livelihood.

Ms. Pontipa claimed that Ms. Aum shocked everyone by “talking outside the topic” and “insulting the higher institution”, a term referring to the monarchy. Ms. Aum’s words were “so shocking we could not broadcast the show”, Ms. Pontipa said, but she has nevertheless stored footage of the interview.

She claimed that she decided to pursue a legal action against Ms. Aum because she was incensed by the student′s continued defamation of the monarchy. Ms. Pontipa also alleged that Ms. Aum is encouraging other students to commit similar crimes.

Lese Majeste Complaint Against Reformist Student“, Khaosod English, September 16, 2013

The complainant made sure that the filing of her charge was well-documented as she let somebody film the process at the police station and posted it later on Facebook. She also had a few press members in tow.

Ms. Ponnipa also provided the officer with documents given by an unnamed Thammasat lecturer that includes personal details about “Aum Neko” including her actual gender by birth (she is a transgender woman), her actual name, birth date and personal ID number – which Ms. Ponnipa also willingly let the cameras film (a reason why I decided against embedding the video, as it was accompanied by an audible cackle by one of the bystanders).

Miss Ponnipa Supatnukul arrives at Thai police station to file lese majeste complaint against ‘Aum Neko’. Pic: Screengrab from Facebook video.

While the nature of the offending comments allegedly made by the student has yet to be disclosed, Prachatai reports that the complainant pointed to a Facebook post by “Aum Neko” that apparently crossed the line for the TV host, as it criticized the pre-screening of Royal tribute movies at cinemas, where standing up is mandatory. In the same report, “Aum Neko” herself has expressed “shock and much anger” as she cannot believe that others would resort to “dirty means” in order to discredit her.

One really has to question the motives and the way Ms. Ponnipa filed her lèse majesté charge, since she was sitting on the alleged offensive remarks for months just to use them against her right now after the anti-uniform campaign gained more attention. Also, she repeatedly showed suggestive pictures of the accused, trying to make the point that such an offence can only be made by an (from her viewpoint) “immoral” person, while repeatedly positively mentioning the virtues of His Majesty and her perceived duty to protect it.

There have been lèse majesté complaints in the past of similar frivolous and spiteful nature: just last Friday a court acquitted a man of lèse majesté, after his own brother filed charges against him in what was a very apparent a long-standing sibling rivalry turned ugly. (It is worth noting that the alleged anti-monarchy comments in this case were made in private, which would have had catastrophic ramifications in case of a conviction). The man was imprisoned for a whole year and repeatedly denied bail while his case was pending.

Another example is the case of actor Pongpat Wachirabanjong’s rousing pro-monarchy speech in 2010 (“If you hate our Father, if you don’t love our Father anymore, then you should get out of here!“), after which one person (mostly likely facetiously) accused him of improper language. Unsurprisingly, the case was dropped.

These and many more cases show one of several weak points of the Kingdom’s draconian law that can be punished with up to 15 years in prison: since anybody can file a charge against anybody, the police have to investigate every complaint and nearly all cases end up in court. The probability of this law being used out of contempt against outspokenness is very high and ultimately can undermine the purpose of the law: to protect the country’s monarchy.

Advertisements