New Thai king par­dons pris­on­ers in ‘first show of mercy’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Thai­land’s new King Maha Va­ji­ra­longkorn has par­doned tens of thou­sands of pris­on­ers, a first act of “mercy” as monarch as he reaches out to his sub­jects fol­low­ing the death of his beloved fa­ther. Revered King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej died in Oc­to­ber aged 88 af­ter a seven-decade reign, leav­ing the po­lit­i­cally febrile na­tion with­out its uni­fy­ing fig­ure. His only son, 64-year-old Va­ji­ra­longkorn, was pro­claimed king in early De­cem­ber. But the thrice-di­vorced monarch is yet to draw the same level of de­vo­tion from a pub­lic well-versed in ru­mors over his pri­vate life even if any crit­i­cism of him is il­le­gal. The pris­oner par­don was Va­ji­ra­longkorn’s “first chance since he suc­ceeded the throne to show the king’s mercy”, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment pub­lished Sun­day in palace mouth­piece the Royal Gazette.

Par­dons were an­nual events un­der Bhu­mi­bol. Women jailed for first of­fences, some in­mates who have served one third of their sen­tences, and pris­on­ers with dis­abil­i­ties or se­ri­ous ill­ness were among those par­doned. The de­cree did not say how many pris­on­ers will be freed. How­ever the Bangkok Post, quot­ing Cor­rec­tions Depart­ment chief Kobkait Kasi­wat, said as many as 30,000 qual­i­fied for re­lease, with an­other 70,000 ex­pected to have their sen­tences re­duced.

Rit­ual, pro­pa­ganda and law un­der­pin the sta­tus of Thai­land’s monar­chy. Thai school­child­ren are taught the pri­macy of the in­sti­tu­tion, while huge por­traits of key roy­als adorn vir­tu­ally ev­ery main street. Like his fa­ther, Va­ji­ra­longkorn is shielded from crit­i­cism by a harsh royal defama­tion law that car­ries up to 15 years in jail per charge. That has forced a cul­ture of self-cen­sor­ship upon the me­dia, academia and the arts. The pris­oner par­dons fol­low a slew of pub­lic ap­pear­ances by the new king, whose four decades as des­ig­nated heir were char­ac­ter­ized by pub­lic­ity-shy­ness and long trips over­seas. Since he was pro­claimed King Rama X, the new monarch has of­fered flood re­lief, opened a town hall and been hon­ored in a video trib­ute played in cin­e­mas. —AFP

BANGKOK: File photo shows Thai­land’s Crown Prince Maha Va­ji­ra­longkorn at­tend­ing the an­nual royal plough­ing cer­e­mony at Sanam Luang in Bangkok. Thai­land’s new King Maha Va­ji­ra­longkorn has is­sued a mass pris­oner par­don, a first act of ‘mercy’ as monarch as he reaches out to his sub­jects fol­low­ing the death of his beloved fa­ther. —AFP

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