Min­is­ter urges ‘so­cial sanc­tions’ as mobs hunt Thai royal crit­ics

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BANGKOK: Thais should “so­cially sanc­tion” those who de­fame the monar­chy fol­low­ing King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej’s death, the junta’s jus­tice min­is­ter said yes­ter­day, as fresh videos emerged of mob jus­tice against peo­ple ac­cused of in­sult­ing the in­sti­tu­tion. The death to­mor­row of the world’s long­est reign­ing monarch has left the na­tion bereft of its key pil­lar of unity and seen mass out­pour­ings of grief from black-clad Thais. But it has also un­leashed small but vo­cal ul­tra-monar­chist forces, in­clud­ing mobs and on­line cru­saders scour­ing the web and bent on pun­ish­ing any­one per­ceived to have in­sulted the monar­chy.

“There is no bet­ter way to pun­ish th­ese peo­ple than to so­cially sanc­tion them,” Jus­tice Min­is­ter Pai­boon Koom­chaya told re­porters yes­ter­day, as he vowed to “pur­sue those peo­ple who vi­o­late the law”. His mes­sage comes amid a grow­ing num­ber of cases of vig­i­lan­tism by roy­al­ist Thais against peo­ple ac­cused of in­sult­ing the monar­chy. At 10.30am a video was broadcast live on Facebook show­ing a mob kick­ing and beat­ing a man and forc­ing him to pros­trate him­self in apol­ogy for al­legedly in­sult­ing the monar­chy.

Dur­ing the beat­ing, which ap­peared to take place in Chon­buri east of Bangkok, the man cried out: “I didn’t mean to do it, I love the king! It’s my fault.” An­other video up­loaded to so­cial me­dia late Mon­day showed an elderly woman on a Bangkok bus be­ing be­rated and slapped in the face by com­muters in the pres­ence of po­lice over al­leged com­ments. Thai­land’s monar­chy is pro­tected by a dra­co­nian lese ma­jeste law that out­laws crit­i­cism with pun­ish­ments of up to 15 years in jail for each in­sult ut­tered. Prose­cu­tions have surged un­der the mil­i­tary which seized power two years ago, and record-break­ing sen­tences have been handed down in some cases.

‘Bunker men­tal­ity’

The arch-roy­al­ist junta has done lit­tle to tamp down hard­line pub­lic sen­ti­ment by pre­sent­ing the monar­chy as un­der at­tack, said David Streck­fuss, a Thai­land-based ex­pert on the monar­chy. “They’ve cre­ated a sort of bunker men­tal­ity,” he said, adding that there was no ev­i­dence of a gen­uine repub­li­can move­ment in Thai­land to jus­tify such an ap­proach. “The clos­est thing to any anti-monar­chy move­ment is just a va­ri­ety of un­con­nected in­di­vid­u­als who want to be able to make pub­lic com­ments about the monar­chy as it is an im­por­tant pub­lic in­sti­tu­tion,” he said.

The lese ma­jeste law makes de­tailed discussion or de­bate about the monar­chy’s role-and its fu­ture after Bhu­mi­bol’s 70-year reign-all but im­pos­si­ble. The at­mos­phere in Bangkok has been over­whelm­ingly somber and calm since the death of the king. Late Mon­day Bhu­mi­bol’s old­est daugh­ter, Princess Ubol­ratana, 65, made a sur­prise visit to well-wish­ers out­side the Grand Palace. “We have to work to move for­wards, not backwards,” she said ac­cord­ing to video up­loaded by eye­wit­nesses. — AFP

BANGKOK: Privy Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Prem Tin­su­lanonda (left in yel­low) re­ceives Thai­land’s Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-O-Cha (cen­ter in pur­ple) dur­ing an event to cel­e­brate the an­nual Songkran fes­ti­val in Bangkok. — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.