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Lese majeste law only damages what it claims to protect

Nov 13. 2018
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I have been following the case of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman who was sentenced to death in Pakistan eight years ago after being convicted of “blasphemy” but has just had her conviction overturned.

Because I read her heartbreaking book about how she suffered so horribly in prison, I feel emotionally attached to her case and hope she is safe.

But are the blasphemy laws in Pakistan that much different from the lese majeste law in Thailand? True, people aren’t directly killed for lese majeste. (I emphasise the word “directly”). But how many lives have been destroyed and how many years have people been sentenced to prison because of lese majeste? Merely being accused of that crime can get you thrown in jail.

When I was growing up my hero was the American civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King. But I would be doing a disservice to King’s memory if I harmed someone for allegedly saying something negative about him. Men such as HM the late King Rama IX and Dr King earned our love and admiration by appealing to our better instincts as human beings. They didn’t try to win us over through fear and intimidation. Great men are better than that and we should be too.

Eric Bahrt

Chiang Mai

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