Activist faces 15 years for sit-down protest

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Have you ever been in the cinema when the Thai national anthem plays and you’ve seen someone not stand up? I have, a couple of times — and it was Thai people, not foreigners. I’ve also seen people not stop in the street or at the BTS station when the anthem has played.

There are some things that we’re not supposed to talk about, but did a good job of satirizing the whole situation.

Thailand’s lese majeste laws are strict and carry sentences of up to 15 years’ imprisonment. However, in the past six months, I’ve seen increasing talk on the Internet, as well as stories in the news, that are putting these laws under the spotlight.

The case of rights activist Chotisak Onsoong is interesting because, one again, media outlets around the world have picked up on the story.

Chotisak is alleged to have refused to stand for the national anthem while at a cinema in September last year.

You’ll recall the case of Swiss national Oliver Jufer, who in March last year was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for defacing an image of HMtK. After intense global media pressure, Oliver was given a royal pardon.

Chotisak is actively challenging Thailand’s lese majeste laws, whereas Oliver was just being a drunken fool. What makes this case unique is that Chotisak doesn’t have a political agenda. Charges of lese majeste are dished out by politicians attempting to damage the reputations of other politics. This case is really a challenge to the whole regime.

It could be the first of many such cases.

I in no way condone the actions of Chotisak Onsoong and I recommend everyone in Thailand stands for the national anthem.

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9 thoughts on “Activist faces 15 years for sit-down protest

  1. This is an interesting topic. When I was there, I just did it because others did it. By nature, I detest nationalism in all its forms – even in Thailand – but we need to choose our battles fairly carefully. I wonder if Chotisak is being treated more harshly *because* he is a Thai citizen.

    It's a rather meaningless custom, imo, but dissidents need to choose their battles more carefully. Thailand places a high premium on social harmony.

  2. The Prachathai website said that the law certainly obliges you to stand up for the royal anthem and you can get punished for not standing up. However, apparently there's nothing in the law that actually indicates that it *is* a lese-majeste offence when you don't stand up. You're breaking a law when you don't stand up, but it doesn't automatically mean you're insulting the king.

  3. When I saw this story it reminded me of constitutional law (US) class a long time ago when you we studied the first amendment freedom of speech does not only encompass spoken or written words but actions also. IMO, I respect this young man for challenging the law. I'm sure he respects and admires the monarchy. In the US the the first amendment has developed into what it is today because of people like this testing the limits of the law. I realize Thailand is different but I think it is a breath of fresh air for a young citizen to have the guts to do this and this could lead other people to realize they have personal freedoms under the constitution or at least they are supposed to have those freedoms. Again I realize that less majeste is a bit different than the the first amendment under the US constitution, but you have to start somewhere. It should be interesting to see how this plays out.

  4. It was the link to the "King never smiles" book, which is a must read for anyone wishing to understand they why's and who's of Thai Royal happenings.

    Obviously it's banned in Thailand, for obvious reasons, it does raise some very very interesting points about the way things are done, and i would advise anyone who is interested, in getting a copy.

  5. Actually, my understanding is that the book "The King Never Smiles" was never offically banned ..just "discouraged" from being promoted. Which more or less amounts to the same thing in Thailand. But I'm not absolutely sure about this. Paul Handley also says in an interview on New Mandala that, as far he knows, he hasn't actually been banned from entering Thailand.

  6. Banning a book is a sure-fire way of generating the maximum possible exposure for it. It always mystifies me when governments and kings choose this path. "The King Never Smiles" wouldn't be half as popular if all the king's men didn't poke their fingers at it. They really ought to learn from the business world…which in times of trouble prefer to shut up and let it all blow over.

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