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Bid to remove anti-lese majeste 'trash' will likely backfire

Those defaming the monarchy are "trash" to be removed and put behind bars.

So says Dr Rienthong Nanna, the leader of a new ultra-royalist vigilante group. The group that Rienthong, a retired major general, founded on Facebook is aptly named in Thai, "Organisation for the Removal of Trash of the Land".

Rienthong's Facebook site, which is weeks old but has already attracted over 123,000 supporters and many opponents, today is urging his followers to file lese majeste lawsuits en masse against London-based Chatwadee "Rose" Amornpat, 34, a Thai-British red shirt whose Thai parents filed a lese majeste complaint against their own daughter, who's also a self-declared republican, in relation to what she said in seven YouTube videos.

Her parents told Khao Sod newspaper that they acted after being pressured by others to do so, and to show that they do not condone such behaviour from their daughter.

To Rienthong and his supporters, those who criticise or offend the monarchy are no longer regarded as humans, but as trash. Rienthong, director of Monkutwattana General Hospital, rose to fame literally within days after leading the latest vigilante crusade to eliminate all expressions of dissent, criticism and defamation against the royal institution.

"I don't accept differing ideas from those who think differently by defaming or citing academic freedom that enabled lese majeste acts [to occur]. I can conclude that these people who think differently are trash of the land," he declared on the organisation's Facebook page last week

Besides the call to hunt down all those who insult the monarchy, Rienthong, who appears to be in his late fifties, is also calling for the practice of "corporate loyalty responsibility", an idea apparently adapted from the notion of corporate social responsibility, or CSR.

As of Monday, the organisation's Facebook page was asking for police to refrain from taking any action against the group, which will arm itself with war weapons for its own safety and protection.

Well intended and loyal though he may be, Rienthong is actually raising more awareness about the draconian nature of the lese majeste law and the increasingly disturbing situation.

He and his peers are, knowingly or not, creating a society of vigilantes and eavesdroppers and a climate of distrust, where parents do not trust their own children and vice versa, and where friends spy on one another for possible closet anti-monarchists.

Instead of wanting to understand why some want to criticise, and criticise or slander the monarchy, or want to see Thailand become a republic, Rienthong and his men would rather not pay attention to the words "understanding" and "empathy".

According to them, people like Chatwadee or red-shirt fugitive Ko Tee belong in prison along with other lese majeste detainees like Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Ekachai Hongkangwan - they're trash to be stashed behind bars.

My prediction is that Rienthong will not only fail to put an end to dissent, but will ironically raise more questions about and resistance to the lese majeste law and where Thai society is heading.

Attempts to eliminate all forms of criticism against the Thai monarchy remind me of medieval Europe's religious Inquisition, of McCarthyism in America, of the Cultural Revolution in China, of the Kim dynasty in North Korea.

Is Thailand heading in this direction?


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