Thailand: a theater troupe in the viewfinder of the junta for defamation against the monarchy

Bangkok (AFP) – Exiled abroad to avoid jail for defaming the monarchy, members of a theater troupe denounce a witch hunt established in Thailand by the military junta that took power in a coup which multiplies the trial for treason.

Two actors are already behind bars for their role in the play “Bride of the Wolf”, covered by a series of complaints on the grounds that slandered the royal family under the guise of being a satire rooted in a fictional kingdom.bangkok

Six other artists of the troupe committed (“Prakai Fai”, “Setting fire” in Thai) is sought under section 112, which provides up to 15 years in prison for anyone found guilty of treason to the king, his wife and their descendants but also his ancestors.

Of the six artists sought, at least two of them have already fled the kingdom, joining a stream of dozens of intellectuals and political opponents in exile to escape the lese majeste cases opened by the military cascade since the coup last May.

“There was a fog over the kingdom,” criticism, on condition of anonymity a member of the troupe, told from exile by AFP.

“But we have to accept that Thailand still has laws that block critical opinions, laws that shut people’s mouths,” he said.

“Bride of the Wolf” was performed in October 2013 in the prestigious Thammasat University in Bangkok for the 40th anniversary of a student uprising, bloodily suppressed by the army. The verdict is expected on 23 February.

The two members of the group arrested the student Patiwat Saraiyaem, 23, and Porntip Mankong, 26, have both pleaded guilty at a hearing last week in Bangkok.

Multiplying the affairs of treason, designed to protect King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 87, the junta is accused of wanting to reshape the political landscape in depth, in order to permanently get rid of the influence of former Prime Minister Thaksin, himself in exile to escape a conviction for embezzlement.

In view of the King’s estate, sick, the lese majeste law “is used as a tool to get rid of the opposition,” complained the member of the theater group told AFP.

– Calls for the denunciation –

And reporting of any crime of treason is encouraged, with reinforced patrols “cyber scouts” tracking offenders on the Internet.

Groups of ultra-royalist volunteers as garbage collection Organisation have numbers specifically dedicated to these denunciations.

According to the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), based in Paris, 18 people have been arrested since the coup.

To this list, add several arrests of senior officers of the police accused of high treason, including relatives of the Srirasmi princess, wife of the crown prince, fallen from its title and separated from the prince.

Among the anonymous fallen foul of section 112, figure a taxi driver sentenced to two and a half years in prison after his passenger recorded his comments on his phone. A leading historian has meanwhile been the subject of a complaint for criticizing a king whose reign dates back over 400 years.

David Streckfuss rare analyst based in Thailand to accept comments on the subject, is expected to emerge “more business” with the use of denunciations by informers among the population.

The business started after the coup are now tried before military courts, further complicating the coverage of these trials by the local and international media, subject to strong self-censorship on the subject.

Unable eg example is what scenes of the Bride of the wolf are considered defamatory might also be prosecuted. The police itself does not say.

A close intellectual Redshirt (powerful pro-Thaksin movement), Jaran Ditapichai, is the origin of the participation of the troop Prakai Fai commemorations at Thammasat University. He also sued him for “high treason” and has received political refugee status in France.

Being prosecuted for treason is a very disabling life marker in Thai society, the message from the military dissidents in exile and more broadly to the public is clear. “When you are accused of Article 112, you can never come back to Thailand,” he said.

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