Red Shirt to 'sue' Thai privy councilors over cable

Originally published at Siam Voices on January 12, 2011 Last week, VoiceTV* reported this:

Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, Anand Panyarachun and ACM Siddhi Savetsila were Thursday sued on lese majeste charges.

Gen Prem, the chief privy counsel and former prime minister, Mr Anand, a former prime minister, and ACM Siddhi, a former foreign minister, were altogether charged by Red Shirt movement for alleged lese majeste acts which might have possibly offended the Royal Household.

Red Shirt spokesman Worawut Wichaidit, who brought up the charges to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at Government House, quoted cable messages circulated by WikiLeaks as saying the highly-placed trio had discussed varied topics with former United States ambassador to Thailand Eric G John a few years earlier.

"Prem, Anand, Siddhi Sued On Lese Majeste Charges", VoiceTV, January 6, 2011

The WikiLeaks cable, in which General Prem Tinsulanonda, the head of the privy council, Air Chief Marshall Siddhi Savetsila, also a member of the privy council, and former prime minister Anand Panyarachun were mentioned and their problematic implications were subject of a previous Siam Voices post by my fellow writer Andrew Spooner.

It has to be said first and foremost that the VoiceTV story is misleading and just simply wrong on so many levels (the main reason why I initially didn't write about this when it first came up). It gives the assumption that the three men have already been charged for lese majeste (let alone by the red shirts themselves), which is obviously not the case.

Normally, a lese majeste complaint would be filed at the police, which then would be checked by them and then decided whether to charge the suspect or not - as seen in the prominent cases of actor Pongpat Wachirabanjong (who was not charged) and Prachatai webmaster Chiranuch Premchiaporn (who was charged, twice!).

So what really happened? According to a short news item on Matichon, the red shirt representative has submitted a letter to Prime Minister Abhisit (hence why he showed up at Government House) notifying that the three men have committed lese majeste ("ยื่นหนังสือถึงนายอภิสิทธิ์ เวชชาชีวะ นายกรัฐมนตรี ให้ดำเนินคดีกับบุคคลที่เข้าข่ายกระทำความผิดต่อองค์รัชทายาท ประกอบด้วย พล.อ.เปรม ติณสูลานนท์ ประธานองคมนตรี พล.อ.อ.สิทธิ เศวตศิลา องคมนตรี และนายอานันท์ ปันยารชุน อดีตนายกรัฐมนตรี") because of the comments they made in the WikiLeaks cable.

That, of course, is a completely different story to the original VoiceTV story (btw, their video report in Thai is closer to the more accurate description) and also less dramatic. The chances are very low that this complaint will get anywhere, since any public discussion on these certain cables are virtually non-existent and the media coverage has been largely mum. But most possibly this was their intent to get more public attention and push the existence of these cables (and their contents) into the spotlight.

On Tuesday, The Nation's Pravit wrote an open letter voicing his displeasure on this matter. Key excerpts:

You must all be well aware that the lese majeste law is draconian and undemocratic. I know Prem is one of your arch-enemies, but first ask yourselves how crushing your enemies by using an undemocratic law would bring about a more democratic society? How then will you differ from the yellow-shirts who prefer a "good coup d' etat" as a panacea for all perceived political ills? (...)

There is no place for lese majeste law in a truly democratic society because citizens in a democracy should be able to express their "critical" views without fear of persecution. Your decision to use the lese majeste law to crush your enemies only makes Thailand more undemocratic.

I always feel that the reds are a bunch of people who cannot publicly and fearlessly express their political views regarding the ruling elite. So there is absolutely no need for them to instil more of this fear in others. It's tragic and ironic that the red shirts, long accused by their opponents of being anti-royalists are now resorting to using this archaic law against its opponents. (...)

Yours Truly,

A journalist who's often accused of being red and in bed with Thaksin.

"An open letter to the red shirts", by Pravit Rojanaphruk, The Nation, January 12, 2011

While it is debatable if the action of one (allegedly a spokesperson, nonetheless) can speak for the whole red shirt movement - which in itself appears to search for a common ground at the moment. But I agree with Pravit  - it is a bad idea that can do more harm than good. The majority of red shirt movement want change in Thai politics and society, and I can imagine many of them want exactly the opposite of what one of them has done with his act.

*Honi soit qui mal y pense, just because this station is run by Thaksin's kids!