Lèse majesté in Thailand: why drunk or sober people don't like kings
This Swiss gentleman got a bit betronken and used real spray paint on a real poster in Thailand.
I love this crime! Lèse majesté! (See Wikipedia wiki below.) Whenever I wonder why we Colonials bothered to throw that tea into Boston harbor and overthrow our King, I'll re-read this story.
In honor of Herr Jufer's release from prison, and the King of Thailand's kindness and mercy, Vleeptron makes a toast:
Bite Me! You suck!
Your Junta sucks too!
The Associated Press (wire USA)
Thursday 12 April 2007
Thailand's kind king
pardons, deports Swiss man
for defacing image of
Thailand's kind king
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- The Thai king has pardoned a Swiss man who was given a 10-year sentence for spray-painting over images of the revered monarch, but the longtime Thailand resident has been ordered to leave the country, police said Thursday.
Oliver Rudolf Jufer, who last month became the first foreigner convicted in at least a decade under strict Thai laws protecting the monarchy, was expected to be deported back to Switzerland later in the day, said police Col. Sangob Sanudon, the chief of Chiang Mai's immigration office.
Police and prison officials in the northern city of Chiang Mai confirmed Jufer had been transferred Wednesday to a police station in Chiang Mai ahead of his deportation. They said he was expected to fly to Bangkok and then onto Switzerland.
"The king in his kindness has granted him a pardon and he has been transferred from prison and is in the process of being deported from the country," Chiang Mai police Col. Prachuab Wongsuk told The Associated Press.
A spokesman for the Swiss Embassy could not be immediately reached for comment.
Jufer was caught by surveillance cameras on December 5 spray-painting black paint over five outdoor posters of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Chiang Mai, where he lived.
Bhumibol, who is greatly loved by Thais and regarded by some as semi-divine, is protected from reproach by strict laws that forbid any criticism of the monarchy.
Jufer, who lived in Thailand for 10 years, pleaded guilty in March to five counts of lèse majesté, or insulting the monarchy. He had faced a maximum of 75 years in prison.
According to court testimony, Jufer had been out drinking with a friend and drove his motorcycle home to pick up a can of spray-paint, which he had bought to paint his dog house. He drove up to a municipal office where a large poster of the king was hung outside, and climbed a ladder to spray paint over the image. He then defaced four other posters near his home, according to the testimony.
The vandalism coincided with Bhumibol's 79th birthday, which was celebrated across Thailand with fireworks and prayers.
Millions of portraits of the king, who is the world's longest serving monarch, were hung late last year around the country to honor his birthday. Many Thais wear bright yellow shirts every Monday, the color that in Buddhist tradition represents the day of the week on which Bhumibol was born.
His case cast a rare spotlight on Thailand's strict lese majeste laws, which have remained virtually unchanged since the creation of the country's first criminal code in 1908, despite the overthrow of an absolute monarchy in 1932.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Lèse majesté (French expression, from the Latin Laesa maiestas or Laesae maiestatis (crimen), (crime of) injury to the Majesty; in English, also lese majesty or leze majesty) is the crime of violating majesty, an offense against the dignity of a reigning sovereign or against a state.
This behaviour was first classified as a criminal offense against the dignity of the Roman republic in Ancient Rome. In time, as the Emperor became identified with the Roman state (the empire never formally became a monarchy), it was essentially applied to offenses against his person. Though legally the princeps civitatis (his official title, roughly 'first citizen') could never become a sovereign, as the republic was never abolished, emperors were to be deified as divus, first posthumously but ultimately while reigning, and thus enjoyed the legal protection provided for the divinities of the pagan state cult; by the time it was exchanged for Christianity, the monarchical tradition in all but name was well established (an example of the way the Roman religion was made to serve the political elite).
In the (mainly Christian) states emerging after the fall of Rome the style of Majesty and the notion of offenses against it were exclusively related to offenses against the crown. In feudal Europe, various real crimes were classified as lèse majesté even though not intentionally directed against the crown, such as counterfeiting because coins bear the monarch's effigy and/or coat of arms.
However, since the disappearance of absolute monarchy, this is viewed as less of a crime, although similar, more malicious acts, could be considered treason. By analogy, as modern times saw republics emerging as great powers, a similar crime may be constituted, though not under this name, by any offense against the highest representatives of any state ( e.g. all heads of state, regardless of their title, as in Belgium).
Current lèse majesté laws
Few countries still prosecute lèse majesté. One exception is Thailand, where social activists like Sulak Sivaraksa were charged with the crime in the 1980s and '90s because they allegedly criticized the Kingalthough the King in his 2005 birthday speech said he would not take lèse majesté charges seriously any more. Several high-profile cases were dropped. In September 2006, the leaders of a military coup accused prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra of lèse majesté; the Thai military is thought to be highly loyal to the king. Although the King is held in great respect by many Thais, he is also protected by lèse majesté laws which allow critics to be jailed for three to 15 years. Politician Veera Musikapong was jailed and banned from politics for lèse majesté, despite the palace's opinion that the remarks were harmless. Frenchman Lech Tomacz Kisielwicz who in 1995 committed lèse majesté by making a derogatory remark about a Thai princess while on board a Thai Airways flight in international airspace was taken into custody upon landing in Bangkok and charged with offending the monarchy. He was detained for two weeks, released on bail, and acquitted after writing a letter of apology to King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Deposed Premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his political opponent Sondhi Limthongkul both filed charges of lèse majesté against each other during the 2005-2006 political crisis. Thaksin's alleged lèse majesté was one of the stated reasons for the Thai military's 2006 coup. In March 2007 Swiss national Oliver Jufer was convicted of lèse majesté and sentenced to 10 years for spray-painting on several portraits of the king while drunk in Chiang Mai, Thailand; however Mr Jufer was pardoned by the King on 12 April 2007.
Brunei is another country which will still prosecutes lèse majesté.
In the United States and most western democracies, except for Poland, the right of free speech protects verbal attacks on public officials, as long as they are not accompanied by threats of violence.
See also: Freedom of speech#Poland
Sondhi may face arrest over lèse majesté allegations
In Poland, it is illegal to publicly insult foreign heads of state present on Polish territory. On 5 January 2005, Jerzy Urban was sentenced to a fine of 20,000 z?oty (about 5000 euros) for having insulted Pope John Paul II, a visiting head of state. During January 26-January 27, 2005, about 30 human rights activists were temporarily detained by the police, allegedly for insulting Vladimir Putin, a visiting head of state. The activists were released after about 30 hours and only one was actually charged with insulting a foreign head of state.
1. ^ "Lese majesty", TheFreeDictionary.com, Columbia Encyclopedia, retrieved 22 September 2006.
2. ^ "A Critic May Now Look at a King", Macan-Markar, Marwaan, The Asian Eye, 18 May 2005.
3. ^ "Thailand's Ousted Prime Minister Is No Longer Democratizer", TNR Online, 20 January 2006.
4. ^ Asiaweek, A Protective Law, 3 December 1999 vol.45 no.28
5. ^ Colum Murphy, "A Tug of War for Thailand’s Soul", Far Eastern Economic Review, September 2006
6. ^ AFP, Thai coup leader says new PM within two weeks, 19 September 2006
7. ^ Time, World Notes Thailand: Not Fit for a King, 15 September 1986
8. ^ BBC News, Sensitive heads of state, 29 March 2007
9. ^ BBC News, Thailand's king pardons Swiss man, 12 April 2007
10. ^ "Criminal Defamation Laws Hamper Free Expression", IFEX.org, retrieved 22 September 2006.
11. ^ "28 Detained for insulting Putin?", Independent Media Center, 27 January 2005.
Swiss man jailed for Thai insult BBC News article