Long Live the King of Thailand

By September 14, 2008December 14th, 2013Politics, Religion

There’s an Australian blogger/writer, Harry Nicolaides, being held in a Thai prison for slandering the Thai Royal Family. The crime was purportedly committed in a book that he wrote about Thailand, which had a print run of fifty and sold only seven copies. One of those readers evidently wasn’t too impressed with a brief and unflattering reference to one of Thailand’s Crown Princes. The charge has a potential jail sentence of 3-15 years.

Anyone can invoke the law ‘lese majeste’ on anyone else, and all claims must be investigated. The Royal Family never invokes the law themselves. Sounds a bit McCarthyist to me. Nicolaides isn’t likely to be in jail for long, the King has a history of pardoning foreigners very quickly; for example, a drunk Swiss man who sprayed graffiti on the king’s portrait; a French passenger on Thai Airways who refused to turn off his reading light while sitting next to a princess.

Recently, two young Thais who failed to stand up for the Royal Anthem in the cinema were charged under the law. This is a short, two minute clip that is played at the beginning of every film that is shown in Thai cinemas. This is the version that I saw when I was there. The quality is pretty bad, but you’ll get the idea.

The first time I saw it (I ended up seeing it three or four times – cinemas in Bangkok were super-cheap, ultra-comfortable and were showing lots of Hollywood blockbusters) I was gobsmacked. It’s blatant propaganda if you ask me. Media students should have a field day pulling this apart. I particularly like the giant swimming through the turbulent oceans. A nice touch.


  • Hello Xu Xu says:

    When you see the reverence which the Thai people have for their king this law becomes somewhat more understandable. When you insult the royal family you are insulting not just the king but every Thai citizen. If ignorant foreigners choose to mock or ignore this important aspect of Thai culture they shouldn’t be in Thailand in the first place, and if they do go so far as to “dis the King”, they deserve to spend a few days in a Thai prison to think things over. This is not a western country, but Thailand is full of western tourists who take their notions of how a society should be with them, and while they enjoy the beaches, cheap beer, girls, Temples and food, are quick to criticise and mock the Thais’ strange ways, without considering the long historical chain of events which led to the current situation there. Thailand was never colonised by a western power, as all it’s Southeast Asian neighbours were.

  • sansIcarus says:

    I take your point XuXu, and I think it’s always important to respect local customs whenever I travel anywhere.

    I understand the feelings of the Thai people, but I find it a bit scary too. I find any form of untempered hero-worship a little worrying.

  • Anonymous says:

    Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
    Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
    Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
    He’s but a cuif for a’ that:
    For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
    His ribband, star, an’ a’ that:
    The man o’ independent mind
    He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

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