Friday, April 26, 2013

The King Is Not Amused

The concept of Lèse-majesté (French, from the Latin laesa maiestas, "injured majesty") as a criminal offence goes all the way back to ancient Rome and was zealously guarded by absolute monarchs in medieval Europe. Various real crimes were also classified as lese-majesty even though they were not intentionally directed against the crown, such as counterfeiting (because coins bear the monarch's effigy and/or coat of arms). By analogy, as modern times saw banana (or mango, depending on your preference of fruit) republics emerging as first world countries, a similar crime may be constituted, though not under this name, by any offence against the highest representatives of any state. In particular, similar acts against heads of today's totalitarian dictatorships are very likely to result in prosecution.

Current instances of lese-majeste application crop up periodically in Europe, Middle East, Asia and Thailand. In the Indian Ocean state of the Maldives, 3 journalists were sentenced to life in 2002 for "insulting the president" and setting up a newsletter critical of the government. In October 2006, a Polish man was arrested in Warsaw after expressing his dissatisfaction with the leadership of Lech and Jarosław Kaczyński by passing gas loudly. An Egyptian court sentenced blogger Abdel Kareem Soliman in February 2007 to 4 years in prison for insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak. Swiss national Oliver Jufer, who admitted to spray-painting several portraits of the Thai king during a drunken spree in Chiang Mai, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in March 2007. He received a royal pardon subsequently and was promptly deported.

Prof Ronald Hutton of Bristol University opined on the travesty: "It was the idea that being rude about a government was a very bad idea - it hurt the government but was technically not treason because no act of rebellion was committed." But it was King Henry VIII (1491-1547) who first took personal injury one step further by passing an act which made speaking against the king treason in itself so "lese-majeste" became redundant.

Interestingly, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand’s longest-reigning monarch, may be growing tiresome of strict applications of the law. "Actually, I must also be criticized," he said in 2005. "If someone offers criticisms suggesting that the King is wrong, then I would like to be informed of their opinion. If I am not, that could be problematic... If we hold that the King cannot be criticised or violated, then the King ends up in a difficult situation." Someone else (not of blue blood) said as much decades ago, "I don't think I worry too much about what people think... In fact, criticism or general debunking even stimulates me because I think it is foolish not to have your people read you being made fun of. And we have got books circulating in Singapore written specially for this purpose by foreigners." (LKY to New Zealand academics and journalists in Christchurch on April 15, 1975)


  1. Wonderful piece, Tattler!

    Fact is, while neither the Thai King nor any member of the royal family has ever filed a lèse majesté charge, most were filed by others, almost always with no connection to the palace, because the law allows anyone to file a lèse majesté complaint.

    Abhisit Vejjajiva, the oxford-trained PM then said that the law does not need to be changed. The problem, he said, is that the law is being abused. One govt spokesman said that one problem is that few policemen, prosecutors or judges are willing to throw out a lèse majesté complaint for fear of being accused of disloyalty. Blind-loyalty at its best, perpetuating its revered worship to the detriment of the nation's progress. Well, we know how Abhisit ended up in his last election.

    1. Unlike Thai royalty, Lee monarchy has no problem filing plenty of charges, is on public records everywhere.

      Nowadays, the people have enough of this Orwellian abomination.

  2. The cartoonist already said it is fictional and yet was arrested. Was it someone high enough to be our King making the complaint? So why was it that they can't even reveal who the complainant was ?

    And why can't these unhumorous people take it with a pinch of salt or consider the political satire cartoons as feedback for our National Conversation ? Looks like our National Conversation does not really appreciate sincere feedback especially if it is realy bad enough.

  3. "So why was it that they can't even reveal who the complainant was ? "

    Does it really matter who is complainant ? This is not even relevant because anyone can make a complaint easily, it is what happen to the complain that really matter. Why is that lesile chew is been jailed for what is indicated fictional while pending investigation with his passport confiscated whereas Jason Neo and Amy Cheong, one under pap and the other under ntuc, did not face the same treatment as lesile ? Why are they so special ? But then, we already know the answer, don't we ?

    1. Of course it does matter especially if the complainant has some other motive other than what is perceived as real concern.

      For example like some political aspirant very eager to please his/her masters.

    2. Exactly but do you think you will get the answer from the horse's mouth ? No one can prove their intention anyway and the white know it, what we see then is their action. They will always protect their own species whether you like it or not.
      They cannot hide from their action though, and therefore why waste your time trying to find the complainant if you know you won't get the answer ? Since when you ever know the complainant when it comes to politics ?

      Which is why it is not relevant if you are not going to get the answer for sure.

    3. I am always watching you....4/27/2013 9:21 AM

      It is the strategy to manage the state using the concept of a watch tower overlooking all prisoners in a circular pattern.

      You never know when you are being watched yet you know that watching is always there.

      The Panopticon prison.

  4. May Day is just around corner, time to turn the screws a few notches before the Hong Lim event recapture the limelight. If a few corruption trials and serial underage sex parade cannot distract the masses, then kill a chicken or two. Meanwhile, the golden egg (aka housing bubble) continues to lay precious eggs. Now does anyone of you still believe they are serious about solving any of the problems they created? Listening to that hypocrite cow on TV explaining how they are now trying to have a soft landing after 7 rounds of failed "cooling measures" makes one wonder how anyone can claim this government is "looking around the corner for its people" (aka The Economist of last week). Lies, damn lies, the papigs and the fawning western press.

  5. When there is no affection to begin with, how does one promote disaffection?!

  6. Minister Khaw was tasked by the Prime Minister to look into Aimgate and it was said thaf after the Punggol By-election, the Result could be experted to be announced.

    To date, there is no mention of it.

  7. 25 yrs ago, Lord Denning said :

    //The offence of seditious libel is now obsolescent. It used to be defined as words intended to stirup violence, that is, disorder, by promoting feelings, of ill-will or hostility between differentclasses of His Majesty’s subjects. But this definition was found to be too wide. It would restrict too much the full and free discussion of public affairs...So it has fallen into disuse for nearly 150 years.// So as vanguard of change, they expect it to have a galvanising effect abroad.

    Then Foreign Secretary, David Milliband said :

    //On the national level, some countries exploit criminal and civil law to silence or stifle legitimatedebate whether through accusations of sedition, libel, defamation, or violations of laws on taxor national security.//

    Fast forward 2013, what rights does this 1st world nation have for its citizens, instead of more entitlement for rulers? Is it any wonder why the graffiti on the war memorial is screaming red that "democracy is dead"? Some MPs were very quick to condemn. Ironically, the Minister of Culture didn't stand up for the vandalizing of Bt Brown heritage which bury our pioneers, but was forthcoming to protect the site of our british allied.

    Both the Seditious Act and Subjects of the Queens have been abolished and obsolete, so what/who then are we trying to protect here?


    QC Pannick : - All those who hold public office must be open to reasoned criticism, because that is how a society develops by people expressing ideas and communicating information....Some of it may be unwise, some of it may be wrong, some may be rude. But it's only by allowing people to express their views that progress can be made. I think it's very important to any free society......Freedom of expression “helps expose error and injustice, and it promotes debate on issues of public importance”, which is why it is so crucial for judges to be open to criticism.

    1. "All those who hold public office must be open to reasoned criticism, because that is how a society develops ..."

      Does this mean North Korean leaders are not interested in developing North Korea?
      Since they are not open to criticism?

      What about Singapore?
      What do you think?

  9. neither am I4/27/2013 2:32 AM

    "Something" must be wrong "somewhere."

  10. We have no Majesty in Sin.

    We only have emperor without clothes.

    1. We also have stupid Sinkies who keep voting for the same old people.

  11. The Clown Prince said sorry but looking at the current sorry state of affairs, he is back to his old tricks again. The Nat Con is true to it's name, to con the people again.

    Looking back at his apology, do you think he was sincere at all? What do you all think?