Friday, February 21, 2020

Biggest barrier to Thailand’s progress is royal defamation law 

Mar 25. 2019
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I have just finished watching “The Crown”, a TV drama depicting the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II up until the early 1960s. 

The series is compelling, convincing and credible, taking a scalpel to the scandals of the British royal family, opening the scars, lifting the scabs, and revealing all. We get Edward VIII’s abdication and his Nazi sympathies, the death of George VI and the ascension of Queen Elizabeth II, the Nazi affiliations of her husband’s family, and much, much more. 

I am an Australian and hope one day to see my country become a republic. But that is not out of disrespect for the British monarch. In fact, watching “The Crown” has given me increased respect for the remarkable and resilient Queen Elizabeth, who has weathered scandals, political turmoil, and family tragedies to emerge as a highly respected figure of constancy, stability, principal and morality. With the passing of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Elizabeth is now world’s longest serving monarch.

Which brings me to the point of this letter.

The late, highly revered King Bhumibol did not support Thailand’s lese majeste (royal defamation) laws.

In 2005 he said: “Actually, I must also be criticised. … If someone offers criticisms suggesting that the King is wrong, then I would like to be informed of their opinion. If I am not, that could be problematic ... If we hold that the King cannot be criticised or violated, then the King ends up in a difficult situation”.

One episode of the “The Crown” depicts Queen Elizabeth arranging a secret meeting with Lord Altrincham, who criticises the Queen for her inability to relate to her subjects in a modern context. To her credit, Elizabeth listens to his advice and takes up some of his suggestions, including broadcasting her Christmas message live on national television.

This past weekend Thais went to the polls as part of the long process of restoring the democracy which has eluded this country for so long. Until Thailand’s lese majeste laws are repealed, or at least severely modified, Thailand will never be a democracy.

David Brown


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