Let’s say there’s this wild bear in your neighborhood. He terrorizes the children and snaps his teeth at the elderly. He breaks into people’s homes, stomps on their plants, destroys their lawn furniture, and eats their food.
Although the bear is being his bear-self, people are frustrated and they have concerns.
But, because of a local law, they are not allowed to report the bear to animal control. In fact, under this law, you’re not even allowed to talk about the bear’s behavior. And according to this law, your neighbor — whom you don’t know personally but is a big fan of the bear — is free to report you to the police should he disagree with your politics about the bear. You could be arrested, denied bail, and imprisoned before even going to trial, for merely tweeting about your frustration with the bear.
That law is Section 112 of Thailand’s criminal code — the now-infamous Thai lèse-majesté law.
“Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”Section 112 of Thai Criminal Code: Wikipedia November 2021
In other words, it prohibits anyone to talk about the monarchy in any light that isn’t favorable or in praise of the monarchy, or they risk facing up to 15 years in prison — for each offense.
Lèse-majesté law, and any discussion of the monarchy for that matter, has long been a taboo topic in Thailand, often talked about in hushed voices in private homes, never in public. But the rise of the youth protest movement in 2020 set a new precedent and they are now calling for the amendment, and even abolishment, of this draconian law.
The protest on Halloween 2021 (just last weekend, at the time this is published) was the first rally to focus solely on amending the problematic law. The 3,000 plus people who showed up signed the petition calling for the amendment in the parliament. Two major opposition parties have voiced formal support for the amendment. But will the movement be successful?
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Frankly, the future is dim. The Thai government is controlled by a former military junta, whose rewritten constitution legitimized their dictatorship and rebranded it a democratic rule. And the Thai military is an institution that vows to protect the monarchy. You can see how one can be pessimistic.
But if you had told me two years ago that the subject of the monarchy would now be openly discussed in Thailand almost as a norm, I would have thought you were delusional and then told you to hush.
So, maybe, the future isn’t too dim, and the bear isn’t too scary after all.
The photographs you see here were shot with a Pentax Espio 115M on Kodak Ultramax 400 (mostly daytime) and Cinestill 800T (mostly nighttime). The film was developed by Sweet Film Bar.
Thanks for reading,
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