Lese majeste and academic freedom
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Lese majeste and academic freedom

BP has previously blogged about a case from 2007 regarding an academic who was investigated for committing lese majeste based on a question in an exam and the legal problems of well-known academic Somsak J – see here and here. US academic Denise Horn whose research interests include democratization and civil society has a blog post at The Guardian about academic freedom which touches on lese majeste in Thailand. Key except:

At the heart of maintaining this order are the world’s strictest lese majeste laws, which make any insult towards the royal family a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Anyone can bring an accusation forward, and anything can be perceived as an insult.

This has had a stultifying effect on scholarship on Thailand, a country that has important strategic ties to the United States and within Asia. Books that delve too deeply into the lives of the royals are banned in Thailand and their authors are persona non grata. Blog authors have been arrested for violating the lese majeste and computer crime laws that forbid posting links to material deemed insulting to the royal family or threaten the security of the state. Those who wish to be critical must quietly conduct research while in the country; after publishing, they know that they may never return to the country. This is a choice I’m now facing, and will have to make.

Good scholarship may require that we put ourselves on the line. But we cannot allow fear of reprisals – from our peers, university systems and other officials – to foreclose the pursuit of communicating ideals and ideas. If we allow ourselves to be censored and silenced, does our work have any real meaning?

BP: Then again, one can’t do much research when one is in a Thai jail and a Thai jail is not a nice place to be hence from this perspective lese majeste has been very effective, but the internet pandora’s box has well and truly been opened so while lese majeste is still a large stick the effectiveness of lese majeste law is not what it once was…..