In a land where you are handed a 20-year jail sentence for sending 4 messages, do you have freedom of speech?
Of course not. What a ridiculous question.
Is the jail sentence appropriate? Should lese majesty be a crime, punishable by law?
If your answer to both questions is something other than an immediate “NO!”, you’ve got some serious rethinking to do.
Whenever I start this kind of discussion, I find that people always bring up a lot of irrelevant points to obscure the issue. So let’s get them out of the way first.
For example, some reply that the King is a great person and he should be respected. This is totally irrelevant. I don’t care if he’s the son of God or a totally despicable person. No one should be exempted from criticism.
Another criticism that I’ve received is that this issue is a small one, so I should be focusing on more important problems. This is an outright fallacy. The existence of a bigger problem does not make smaller problems disappear. And this issue is surely a most important one for the guy who’s about to go to jail.
Another irrelevant comment: that the King was not behind this lese majesty law. So what? That point is not under dispute. We are talking about whether a criticism of a special person should be a crime or not.
One more side issue: that the man will surely be pardoned by the King. Then why send him to jail in the first place? This does not negate the fact that criticism of the King is a crime under Thai law.
One last fallacy: Some say we shouldn’t change the situation, because the institution of monarchy has been with us for a long time. This reasoning can also be used to justify slavery, racism, and denial of women’s rights.
Why do I want this right to freely express my opinions? Because I do not want the law enforcement to tell me who I can and cannot criticize. Because the right not to be offended does not exist. Because I think that suppressing contrary opinions only show that you have no reasonable replies. Because I don’t want the lese majesty law to be used as a tool to discredit others.
The only way to stop any kind of criticism, irony, or disrespect on the internet is to cut the internet connection in Thailand. The same goes for phone and message systems. While you’re at it, why not stop teaching people how to read and write? That’s the only surefire way to stop every unwanted expression.
When all is said and done, it comes down to this question: Are you for free speech or not?
I think Voltaire had the best answer when he said “Even though I do not agree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
If this essay makes you angry, that means I got my point across. If it doesn’t, I’m glad you’re on the side of free speech.