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Man Won’t Stand for Thai Royal Anthem

April 25, 2008 10:30 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
A Thai man faces a possible 15 years in jail under the country’s lèse majesté laws for refusing to stand during the Royal Anthem in a Thai movie theater.

30-Second Summary

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Chotisak Onsoong, a 27-year-old Thai citizen, could spend 15 years in jail for violating a law forbidding a person to “defame, insult or threaten” the nation’s royalty.

Short films of King Bhumibol Adulyadej performing kind acts, accompanied by the Royal Anthem, always precede movie screenings in Thailand. When Chotisak chose not to stand up for the anthem at the theater last September, another moviegoer hurled popcorn and a bottle of water at him. Later, that same moviegoer filed a lèse majesté complaint against him.

Thais revere their king, who has served longer than any other monarch in the world and maintains a god-like status.

A Thai University professor was accused of the same crime last August when he asked his students if the “monarchy is necessary for Thai society?”

Politicians often charge one another with lèse majesté to damage an opponent's reputation.

The law is not limited to Thai citizens. A Swiss man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for spray-painting over posters of the king, before the monarch pardoned and deported him.

Chotisak has been defiant, however. “The lèse majesté law falls under the constitution, which says that all Thais have the right to freedom of expression," he said. "Therefore, the lèse majesté law is unconstitutional."

The concept of lèse majesté has also sparked controversy in Spain, where a cartoonist and his editor were charged with insulting the country’s royalty in November 2007. Besides Spain, the Netherlands is the only other European nation that forbids slurs against its monarch.

Headline Links: Charged with insulting the king

Background: Other cases of lèse majesté in Thailand

Related Topcs: Disrespecting Europe's royalty

Reference: Thailand Guide

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