Shock over lese-majeste charge against Thammasat historian
Political activists and associates of high-profile Thammasat University historian Somsak Jiamteerasakul have reacted with shock to the lese-majeste charge filed against him.
They warned that charging one of the Kingdom's best-known critics of the lese-majeste law by using that law is "short-sighted" and will "backfire".
Vipar Daomanee, a fellow academic at Thammasat University, said: "Somsak has always been careful [in expressing himself] and the fact that the ruling class is using this law is short-sighted, blind and dictatorial."
Vipar warned that the issue would likely become "internationalised" and widen the current political division. She added that Somsak always cited detailed academic texts and facts whenever he criticised the law or the institution.
Somsak, who finished his doctoral education in Australia and enjoys a cult following among leftists, announced on Facebook yesterday that he would hold a press conference at 2pm today to discuss the charge and how it impacts his academic freedom at Thammasat University's Law Faculty.
Somsak had made a much-talked about speech on December 10 last year regarding the Thai monarchy and the Constitution. He stated on his Facebook page that the public lecture was the basis for the lese-majeste charge. Somsak could not be reached at the time of going to print.
David Streckfuss, a Khon Kaen-based expert on the lese-majeste law, who last year wrote an academic book about the controversial law, warned that the charge will eventually "backfire" against the elite.
"Striking against red-shirt leaders is one thing but striking against an academic is another," said Streckfuss, adding that Somsak and his group's approach to criticisms are "very measured".
Thanapol Eiwsakul, editor of the leftist Fah Diew Kan magazine, which published some of Somsak's articles, said the lawsuit is tantamount to harassment.
Thanapol claimed that Somsak had been receiving threatening phone calls of late and some unknown motorcyclists also drove in front of his home to harass him. "On one hand, the law is used to threaten others, now even someone like Somsak has been sued."
Although the mainstream media have ignored most of Somsak's critical speeches and writings up until now, he enjoys a large following both on and off-line through the Internet and alternative media such as Fah Diew Kan and Prachatai.com. Thanapol said the news bout Somsak being charged is already spreading fast.
On Prachatai.com, a non-profit online newspaper website, the news was announced yesterday with some praising him and others condemning him.
"Please admit your guilt," a reader posted under the pen name 'Rim Ping Lady'.
Another, using the name 'Green Lantern', wrote: "I hope your incarceration will awake tens or hundreds of thousands of people into bringing about a major change that we have long been awaiting."