: Transcript of his presentation (minus the Q&A) seems to be available from here
– have not checked that it matches the content
Audio of the event is available to download from here
(8MB MP3) The first 2-3 minutes of the audio when Abhisit is being introduced the sound quality is quite bad, but it does get better. He speaks for about 20 minutes and the rest is the Q and A. New Mandala
has a very long and detailed guest post
about Abhisit’s speech at Oxford and no repeat what the poster has summarised. Will add two things.
First, he does mention the upside to Thaksin’s rule and that is rural poor gained some benefits, healthcare and village fund, and this empowered the poor
Second, he states democracy ran into trouble against last year after the courts ruled against the government for abuse of power and electoral fraud. Not sure that the court stated there was abuse of power. It was found to be the actions of a single executive
BP: Giles has the first question and goes on a diatribe. The New Mandala guest post:
The first member of the audience who asked a question was Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn. Giles began by saying that he faced a lese majeste charge from the Abhisit government for writing an academic book, and there are several people in Thailand are also facing the same charge unjustifiably. He then went on to criticise Abhisit’s government for relying on the military intervention (in lobbying the faction of MPs to support them) to get into power, for having members of the cabinet that participated in the closing down of the airport, and for neglecting to charge the army general who ordered the Takbai massacre. He ended by asking Abhisit to have a debate with him live on national television on the topic of democracy. Abhisit responded to Giles by saying that the fact that he agreed to answer questions (like Giles’ questions) is a testament that he is a democratic politician, and he would be surprised if the people whom Giles admired when they were PM would accept such questions from the audience. He then argued that Giles’ facts were not right, a number of lese majeste charges were not made when his party is in power, it was made during the time when Thaksin or his followers ran the government. He also faced the lese majeste charge during Thaksin’s government but the police dropped the charge. He argued that people who are democrats must respect and not run away from the law…
BP: Giles doesn’t state that the Democrats were behind his charge or that complaints were laid when the Democrats were in government. BP has noticed in a number of Q&As for Abhisit to state definitively that the person has the facts wrong/were inaccurate. He doesn’t state that he disagrees with the premise of the question or disputes the facts. Look, it is natural for politicians to avoid questions, but he should not be stating that people are wrong.
The guest post states that “he believes that Giles’ charge was legitimate because he made an allegation that the monarchy backed the coup (which is something that Giles has to prove, he said). Giles asked Abhisit to clarify which part of the book said that. Abhisit said he has not seen the details, but he read Giles book, and he has been told that Giles made specific allegations.” Actually, Abhisit states “I believe you are being charged not for your comments about the coup, but for specific allegations against the monarchy since their alledged role”. Giles asks for clarification about what it was, but Abhisit fudges the answer saying he was just told although does note that he read his book. He said it was in relation to specific allegations and if there were no specific allegations the charges were dropped, like they were with Chotisak
– first that BP has heard of the charges being dropped.
Abhisit’s then continues:
Abhisit then defended the lese majeste by saying that there are similar laws in some European countries that have constitutional monarchies. There was a person in one European country who has been imprisoned by a similar law. The law itself is not necessarily undemocratic, “if you say the same thing or made the same allegation against ordinary people, you will also be taken to court…what the law does is to give protection to the royal family in the same way that libel laws protect ordinary people”. Abhisit then argued that some difference between the two laws (lese majeste charges can be filed to the police by anyone) exist because the Thai royal family is a neutral institution – above partisanship, above conflict, revered by the Thais, and a key pillar of national security – and therefore the law does not want the monarchy to take legal action against people.
: Has anyone in a Europen country actually been imprisoned for lese majeste? There have been fines, but am not aware of anyone being imprisoned. It is fundamentally dishonest to say that lese majeste protects the royal family the same way that libel laws it is the same as libel laws when it is clearly not as Streckfuss explained
recently. Some examples
of lese majeste convictions:
In the 1980s, a person suggested that the King should abdicate and enter politics. The court held this defamed the King and brought a jail sentence of 6 years.
In the 1980s, merely suggesting that Thailand should abolish the monarchy and set up a republic was deemed to be lese majeste and resulted in an 8 year prison sentence.
BP: None of these involve specific allegations. You also have Veera’s conviction in the 1980s as well when he talks about being a hypothetical prince. None of these involve specific allegations.
There are a few other things that BP would like to say about Abhisit’s visit to the UK and other news stories, but agree with what Parry states
in his blog post about the op-ed piece in the Bangkok Post
and The Nation
‘s article quoting the UK Ambassador so will leave it at that.
btw, did the UK media even notice that Abhisit was in town? There are few political news articles about his visit. From a few google searches, BP can find this blog post at the Guardian politics linking (approvingly) to Parry’s The Times article saying that Abhisit presides “over a chaotic and callous regime”.