Geopolitics

Quotes Of The Year: Maduro, Snowden, Pope, More

It's been a year of both earnest and outrageous comments from across the globe.

Quotes Of The Year: Maduro, Snowden, Pope, More
Worldcrunch

JANUARY

A statement from the French president after gossip magazine Closer reported that he was having an affair with French actress Julie Gayet

Google chairman Eric Schmidt, on jobs for the coming decades.

FEBRUARY

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, on announcing that he expeled three unnamed officials from the U.S. embassy, accusing them of conspiring against his government

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, on gays, the day after he signed a drastic anti-gay bill.

MARCH

Speaking to BBC Radio, British Foreign Secretary William Hague on the Ukraine crisis.

APRIL

Parents of the 129 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram on April 14 vented their outrage against the Nigerian government.

Author Harper Lee, on approving the release of an electronic version of her classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

MAY

Former CIA and NSA contractor Edward Snowden, dismissing critics who claimed he was a low-level hacker.

Japan Finance Minister Taro Aso, telling the country's lawmakers that it's unfair for his taxes to underwrite the health costs of lazy people.

JUNE

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Argentina would have to repay creditors on its defaulted bonds

The Spanish government, announcing King Juan Carlos' abdication, paving the way for his son Felipe to take over the royal reins.

JULY

With Italy assuming the EU presidency for six months, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi vowed to make the issue of immigration a top priority for Europe.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, reacting to the June 23 sentencing of three Al-Jazeera journalists, conceding that the case had been damaging for his country.

AUGUST

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, to angry Missouri residents mourning teen Michael Brown, about his own mistrust of police

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, condemning the country's rape culture

SEPTEMBER

Iran President Hassan Rouhani, raging against the U.S. and its allies.

President Barack Obama, on the ISIS terror organization's beheading of American journalist James Foley.

OCTOBER

Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai jointly wins the Nobel Peace Prize with Indian Kailash Satyarthi.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, on the Ebola crisis

Said Pope Francis.

NOVEMBER

Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson, on the deadly shots he fired at unarmed teen Michael Brown.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's sexist comments at a women's conference.

DECEMBER

President Barack Obama, saying "We are all Americans" in Spanish as part of his announcement that the United States was normalizing diplomatic ties with Cuba, ending 50 years of hostile relations between the two countries.

During a visit to Australia, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko pleaded with Russia to withdraw its troops from his country.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.


But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ