Journalism: 1) Symbolic protest for freedom of expression at Thailand’s National Book Week

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By Pooky, Thai Intel’s humanity journalist

At Thailand’s National Book Week, a group of protesters, protested for freedom of expression in Thailand, where days earlier, a Thai princess opened the convention.

The protesters, about 10 to 15 of them, were wearing Somyot mask. Somyot is a magazine editor, in jail for offending the Thai Monarchy, or lese majeste. The usage of lese majeste in Thailand, the United Nations say, strife freedom of expression and is in violation of Thailand’s obligation to human rights principles.

About 2 million Thais, are expected at the National Book Week, making it one of the biggest in recent memory, with over 300 publishers participating, with some 30 to 40 frm foreign countries.

The issue of freedom of expression in Thailand, as related to the Monarchy, is an issue mostly avoided by the Thai people, in their day to day life. However, the issue has gained widespread following with the liberal crowd in Thailand, and the Nationalist who supports lese majeste.

The National Book Week, is a clear example of how the Royalism is view in Thailand, as about 99%% of the 100s book on the Thai Monarchy, being sold at the National Book Week, are mostly on the Thai Royalism.

However, apart from the protesters, at this National Book Week, that is bringing a sense of reality to the meet of the state of Thailand’s freedom, is that usually at the Book Week, there are booths selling old magazine. At some of these booths that sells old magazine, are old Fah Diew Kun (Same Sky) magazines. Same Sky magazine, of course, expose the Thai Royalism issue, and is very difficult to find in Thailand.

In sum, at the National Book Week, while 100s of books about Glorifying Thai Royalism, gets premium space by publishers, to sell the books, the only critic of the Thai Royalism, in print form, Same Sky, is buried somewhere, very difficult to find. And those who carry it, are at risk of being charged with Lese Majeste. In total, Same Sky, critical of Thai Royalism, likely is less than 1% of all the books being sold at the National Book Week.

Overall, Thailand ranking on Freedom of Expression, has gotten better under the democratically elected, Yingluck government. However, fear of a back-lash on her government from the Far Extreme Right, have meant Yingluck is taking a back-burner position, with the lese majeste issue.

Globally, it looks highly negative for Thailand, as most global level units, that focus on development, like the UN, have criticized Thailand, on the lese majeste issue.

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