I don’t consider myself an activist, but I support the Red Shirts, and they are very upset over Ampon’s death. They weren’t the only ones at the vigil, though. There were also ordinary people, from all social classes, who wanted to express their respect for the deceased as well as their dismay over the injustice he suffered.
It was a very sad event, but it promoted a lot of discussion about the flawed lese majesty law. It was an impressive turnout given that most people in Thailand had no idea what was going on. Most of my friends and colleagues don’t even know who Ampon was. The mainstream media didn’t report on his death at all. Holding the funeral at the Criminal Court caused a huge traffic jam, because people spilled out onto the street, but the media didn’t even mention that.
Mourners and activists gathered in front of a piece of artwork representing Ampon, in front of Bangkok's Criminal Court Wednesday. Photo by our Observer, Ruud.
“I would like to see the ‘lese majesty’ law amended, so that people like Ampon don’t end up in jail”
As it stands, anyone in Thailand can accuse anyone else of lèse majesté, and the burden of proof is simply not high enough. In Ampon’s case, the judge admitted in his verdict that there was no definitive proof that Ampon sent the text message himself, but was still convinced it was him. That’s crazy.
And then there’s the question of the sentence. People accused of lèse majesté risk being jailed for just as long as if they had murdered someone. It’s completely disproportionate.
A woman praying for Ampon at his funeral. Photo by our Observer, Ruud.
I think most people in Thailand do want to keep the law, but if you ask most people exactly what the law entails, they can’t tell you. While I wouldn’t mind seeing the lèse majesté law disappear, I would be happy just to see it amended, so that people like Ampon don’t end up in jail.