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Thai Authorities Arrest Elderly Man for Expressing Doubt About Thailand’s History

Thai police have arrested an 85-year-old man and placed him in front of a Bangkok military court because he questioned the truth of a 400-year-old story about Thailand’s former king.

The man in question, Sulak Sivaraska, came to the attention of Thai authorities after he spoke at a public forum in Bangkok, where he encouraged the audience to critically re-examine the oft-repeated ‘truth’ about Thai King Naraesuan’s duel with a Burmese prince prior to the 1593 Battle of Nong Sarai.

Specifically, Mr. Sivaraska cast doubt on the historical evidence of King Naraesuan dueling the Burmese prince on the back of a war elephant. According to Thai history, the king’s victory led to Thailand’s triumph over Burma in the following battle.

Unfortunately, Mr. Sivaraska’s statements – as reasonable as they are – were perceived as an insult against the monarchy; a crime that is punishable by imprisonment.

Mr. Sivaraska, who now needs a cane to walk properly, is both confused and outraged by the charges against him.

“Perhaps they don't like me because I never close my mouth,” he declared. Despite the threat of imprisonment, Mr. Sivaraska has sworn that he would no change his words if he were to be put in the same position, saying: “I speak the truth. I believe in the Quakers: speaking truth to power…I think it is my duty.”

The charge against Mr. Sivaraska is known as ‘Lese Majeste’ and encompasses any offense – intentional or perceived – against the monarchy. According to the Dailymail, people convicted of Lese Majeste can be imprisoned for three to fifteen years.

Thailand’s constitutional laws specify that Lese Majeste is only actionable for the most important members of the royal family. However, there remains confusion about whether the law is relevant to deceased monarchs and their families.

For Mr. Sivaraska, the mandate of Lese Majeste will depend on the individual interpretation by government attorneys. Mr. Sivaraska’s lawyer, Puangtip Boonsanong, supports this idea, telling local media outlets: “It is up to each individual's interpretation to confirm if Lese Majeste protects dead kings.”

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have used the incident to condemn Thailand’s military government. Thailand has been under the control of high-ranking members of the military since 2014, when the army deposed the government and seized power.

According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, the undemocratic military government has already ordered and overseen the prosecution more than 93 Lese Majeste cases. Besides involving at least 138 people, very little else is known about how these cases were conducted and sentenced.

Human rights activists have slammed the uptick in Lese Majeste cases, accusing Thailand’s military government of misusing the law to silence intellectuals and imprison potential political activists. The Dailymail reports that Mr. Boonsanong has confirmed that his client, Sulak Sivaraska, will fight the charges against him.

Unsurprisingly, online commenters are confused and outraged by the arrest of Mr. Sivaraska. One user, Pani Ela, emphasized the absurdity of the case, writing: “Another example of what happens to people in backward ignorant countries! The world is mad!”

Source: MailOnline
Photos: YouTube, Arthit Suriyawongkul/Flickr, Wikimedia, Facebook

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