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Academic group pushes for tougher lese majeste law

A new group of royalist academics from eight universities issued a manifesto yesterday attacking those who want to amend or abolish the lese majeste law and vowing to fight what they called the monopoly of Thai politics by a "capitalist political party".



The group, calling themselves Siam Prachapiwat, or Siamese People Progress, is composed of 26 academics from eight universities including Chulalongkorn and Thammasat.

The group said no one should touch the lese majeste law and that the penalty for violating it should be made more severe, because there exists a movement to defame and abolish the monarchy institution.

Komsan Pho-kong, a lecturer of law at Sukhothai Thammathirat University and a member of the group, said the "real problem" is not the lese majeste law but "an attempt by some to establish a new Thai state", referring to the perceived threat of republicanism.

Komsan and other members accused the Nitirat group of law lecturers, which will launch its public campaign to amend the lese majeste law on Sunday at Thammasat University, of exploiting their academic status to push forward a "hidden agenda" to undermine the monarchy.

Komsan added that most Thais do not understand what liberty is all about. The Siam Prachapiwat group stated in its manifesto that Thailand is facing a "crisis of [too much] liberty".

"There exists the overuse of liberty, leading society toward anarchy," part of the manifesto reads.

"[Nitirat] speaks like Latin American revolutionaries," said Sattra To-orn, a law lecturer at Rangsit University and a member of Siam Prachapiwat.

The group said their aim, besides defending the monarchy institution, is to "destroy the political monopoly" of the capitalist political party, said Assoc Prof Banjerd Singkaneti, dean of the Graduate School of Law at the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), where the group was launched.

Thaweesak Suthakavathin, president of the Faculty Senate at NIDA, said the monopoly is reflected in the fact that the past few years have seen three members of the extended Shinawatra family become prime minister. He added that the monarchy institution has nothing to do with "the backwardness of Thai society".

The group said it opposes the belief that elections are the be-all and end-all of democracy. When asked by The Nation if the group considers military coups a legitimate part of the solution to get rid of autocratic regimes, Thaweesak was ambivalent.

"We haven't discussed the matter yet," he said, adding that autocratic and corrupt politicians should not test the limits of the group's perseverance. "We probably can't order the military." None of the members of the group played any role in opposing the military coup in 2006, however, and one member, Chatchai Rattanadilok na Phuket, was a frequent speaker at the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) rally.

The group, which includes Prof Charas Suwanmala, a former dean of Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Political Science and a leader of the multi-colour-shirt group, will soon begin organising academic symposiums to discuss the "monopolisation of Thai politics" by the Pheu Thai Party.

The group insisted that military dictatorships' domination of Thai society is over and the sole threat is that of the so-called "capitalist political party", which it said is corrupt.


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