Just hours ago a 70 year old Thai political dissident affiliated with the populist Red Shirts was jailed on the charges of committing lèse majesté against the Thai monarchy, particularly the beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej, otherwise known as Rama IX the Great. Thai lèse majesté laws define themselves as defaming or threatening any persons of the royal monarchy. Sentences can go up to more than 15 years in jail.
Thailand has been recently shocked by ‘terrorist’ bomb blasts with blame pinned on suspects of Iranian and other nationalities during the fragile time of political wrangling, rampant corruption among local authorities and so forth.
Besides bombs, protests over rising compressed natural gas prices, Red Shirts dumping blood out on the streets and the devastating floods which wreaked havoc in the northern parts of Thailand just this past year, tensions have been rising over the controversial issue of the existing lèse majesté laws which some say are only used as a sort of free prosecution permit or “trump card” for coup d’etats or political disputes.
Even foreigners, (re: even American citizens) under the protection of their governments are not exactly immune if they break these laws. Foreigners can also be thrown into jails for more than a decade if found guilty of committing lèse majesté.
The cases of a girl being barred from entering university in Thailand because of her off-handed remarks on the royal monarchy in Thailand, an American citizen being sentenced to jail, in absentia cases where foreigners are given harsh prison sentences under the lèse majesté laws are unnerving foreign tourists and expatriates in the Southeastern Asian country.
Many non-Thais online have been calling for boycotting tourist ventures, sex tourism or any Thailand-related trips in response to the controversial cases alongside other reasons.
Some, in response to others saying “you don’t have to go there then”, eagerly declared that they would be taking their businesses and investment ventures elsewhere as clearly, according to them, Thailand only wants “short term” money.
Resentment among non-Thais have been growing due to, as they say, the:
numerous scams, the corrupted and unhelpful police officers, the condescending attitude of many encountered Thais for “farang”, the unfair double prices for foreigners, controversial ethnic cleansing, the human rights violations, the political instability, the unfair laws against foreigners, the incredibly inefficient immigration offices and so much more.
The tourism industry takes up an enormous chunk of the Thai economy and less than 10% of the GDP and an effective mass boycott could cripple the country.
However, there is apparently no clear plan or organization that will carry out these boycotts that have been clamored for.
(Cover Photo: Apichart Weerawong/AP)