Thailand has some of the world’s harshest laws in defense of its monarchy. A young, modern university girl by the name of Kanthoop is under scrutiny for violation of the country’s tough pro-monarchy laws which could send her to jail for 15 years for what she calls ‘having opinions.’
Thai people are extremely patriotic, and this manifests itself in the government institution of the monarchy. Every day at 8 AM and 6 PM, Thai people stand at attention as the national anthem is blared over loudspeakers. King Rama IX’s portrait adorns the walls of shops and homes throughout the country. This adoration is backed by laws stipulating three to 15 years in prison for anyone convicted of insulting the royal family.
Attempts to reform the law have failed, usually because of the powerful position of the monarchy in Thai society. Some see the edification of the monarchy as working towards its detriment. Thongchai Winichakul, a south-east Asian history professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has this to say to The Guardian: “Just look at the hyperbole used to describe the monarchy, the religiosity with which Thai people love the monarch and the public participation of all this royalism…People are now afraid of their colleagues.”
Kanthoop, the university student at the center of the latest national controversy, was investigated for posting Facebook messages that she says were later distorted by others and authorities. Kanthoop is not alone in her fight against lese-majesty, with other activists going on hunger-strikes in the capital of Bangkok.