The Case of Chai Rachawat: Internet Freedom According to Yingluck Shinawatra
Image Credit: Wikicommons

The Case of Chai Rachawat: Internet Freedom According to Yingluck Shinawatra

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It was the speech everybody had been waiting two years to hear, but few in the international community immediately recognized it. 

Last month, Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra traveled to the 7th Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies in Mongolia where she discussed the importance of democracy, good governance, and her perspectives on Thailand’s turbulent politics over the past decade. In particular, she defended her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who was Thailand’s Prime Minister until being deposed by a coup in 2006. 

The speech generated an intense domestic reaction, with Opposition personalities calling Yingluck a liar. As expected, netizens actively shared their views as well, but it was Thai Rath cartoonist Chai Rachawat who posted the most controversial remark by uploading a photo of Yingluck with this caption on Facebook: “Please understand that prostitutes are not bad women. Prostitutes only sell their bodies, but a bad woman has been wandering around trying to sell the country.”

Rachawat was quickly and widely criticized for insulting women and for portraying Yingluck as evil. In response, he claimed in a Bangkok Post interview that he did not insult anyone.

“What I meant was prostitutes are not evil because they sell themselves, not the nation,” he said. “However, a woman who sells the nation is evil. I did not label the prime minister as a prostitute.”

Despite this clarification, Yingluck still instructed her lawyers to sue Chai for defamation. In addition, Chai was charged with violating the Computer Crimes Act. This is the first time in Thailand that a prime minister has sued a citizen for leaving a comment on social media. It is common in Thailand to penalize netizens who insult the Royal Family, but not those who offend government officials. 

Rachawat’s case has since become a cause célèbre involving media freedom and Internet rights. Human rights watchdogs noted that Chai was sued on World Press Freedom Day.    

The perceived persecution of Chai seems to have emboldened Opposition groups to mobilize against Yingluck’s government. Out of nowhere, a so-called Thai Spring movement has emerged, urging citizens to express their frustration against Yingluck by signing an online petition.  

This brings us back to the original issue: Yingluck’s controversial speech. So what exactly did Yingluck say that provoked Chai and others to insult her? For a start, maybe her kind words for brother Thaksin did not sit well with those who see him as an abusive and corrupt leader.

“An elected government which won two elections with a majority was overthrown in 2006,” she said in Mongolia. “Thailand lost track and the people spent almost a decade to regain their democratic freedom.”

She continued, “Thailand suffered a setback and lost international credibility. Rule of law in the country was destroyed… The people felt their rights and liberties were wrongly taken away.”

Further, her criticism of Thailand’s Constitution and political system probably angered some factions of the ruling elite: 

“It is clear that elements of anti-democratic regime still exist. The new constitution, drafted under the coup leaders led government, put in mechanisms to restrict democracy,” she said. “A good example of this is that half of the Thai Senate is elected, but the other half is appointed by a small group of people. In addition, the so called independent agencies have abused the power that should belong to the people, for the benefit of the few rather than to the Thai society at large.”

Curiously, Yingluck cited the Arab Spring and the ongoing transition in Myanmar as examples of democratic movements. She also credited “people power” for her electoral victory. But these two points were overshadowed by Yingluck’s strong words against the Opposition.   

On another level, perhaps the speech was controversial because it was the first time that Yingluck has clearly articulated her stance on divisive issues like Thaksin, the 2006 coup, the violent crackdown on the Red Shirts in 2010, and constitutional reform. 

For some analysts, the speech revealed the true Yingluck. For critics, it exposed her as a mere puppet of her brother, who is living in exile outside Thailand. Yingluck may have spoken in Ulan Bator last month but perhaps her real target audience was her constituents, including enemies, in Bangkok.

No doubt, this speech will be remembered for a long time and it will be used by various political factions to advance their agendas. For better or worse, Thai politics has been energized by Yingluck’s speech.

Comments
6
Sam
June 5, 2013 at 01:19

I think most of you should at least stop lying to yourself. He caused more damages that you have ever realized and I will not waste my own time to enlighten you. Judging from your message, it would be such a waste to even tell you that even now, Thai people have to endure the double-standard laws and stay silent when our voices are needed. He is an escaped criminal. Yet, no one ever stop him from coming back. He should come back, admit the the crimes and in less than a few years, he will walk freely in his own country. However, the only thing that stops him is he doesn't want to lose the money when the court found him guilty. He is free to come back anytime. It's his choice not to come back.

 

Chai did not even mention her name and what his crime would be? If for looking down that 'she' was a prostitutes, that would not be possible since Chai stated that Prostitues are better than a bad woman. No name was mentioned. If for saying that 'she' was a bad woman to sells her nation, then she must have admitted first that she was a bad woman who sells the nation. In the second point you  won't agree with me. So, what's the point of sueing Chai anyway? And the post understate it a bit, it was not the first time in Thailand that a citizen was sued by the government, it should be the first time in the entire world. Anyway, I'm too young to know such history. If you know any other nation that has ever done that to a citizen, please let me know. 

 

If you can see things through, thank you and you now know how this government's like. If you can't, poor me…I can't get you out of lies.

michael hardy
June 3, 2013 at 02:45

Awesome to see the world becomming aware of what has been hidden purposly from us, it is important and for once i feel a little hope on this subject. Somehow we need to ban together(every person in the world who agrees with us), i mean if we could like all protest on the same day/week/month what ever it takes. We go on strike from the system until our request are met. If the entire world refused to work or support their government until these request of ending monsanto in their country is met. It would have to hit the media for sure if the entire world protested the same day and organized it that way purposly and it would alert even more unsuspecting people who knew nothing of Monsanto's plans. Know they join the cause also and we refuse to move until our need is met WORLDWIDE!

Mickey Z
June 3, 2013 at 00:56

I support PM.Yingluck Shinawatra.

politico
May 27, 2013 at 08:52

Thailand like many many other neo-feudal nations around the world still cling to the notion that a man must be above his woman. It's time for a global revolution to destroy such a belief.

starone
May 24, 2013 at 20:00

Yingluck did a good job for Thailand. She should be praise instead of being shame by her countrymen. Perhaps, Thailand is not ready yet for a female PM yet and that brings out the negative image by these people about her.

Protocol calls for her to do what she is doing now, representing the country and to secure the best interest for her country. What she is doing now is for King and country and those that is bad mouthing her should be ashame of it. As a female she is doing a man's job to bring about improving the economy of Thailand.

 

The people of Thailand should stand behind her and not backstab her. As a man, should'nt they be ashame of themselves.

Areva
May 24, 2013 at 15:16

Yingluck was accurate and truthful during her speech about Thailand's state of democracy. The political elites and the Democrat Party condemned her for speaking about the crackdown of 2010 and the removal of an elected Prime Minister, Thaksin, by the army in 2006. The elites prefer not to be reminded of their own support for a junta during those years when democracy was dead.

 

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