We have previously discussed the harsh limitations on free speech and free press in Thailand. Now, a leader scholar, Sulak Sivaraksa, 85, has been arrested for simply questioning the factual accuracy of the famed “elephant battle” held over 400 years ago. He merely responded to questions from fellow academics by cautioning “not to easily believe in things. Otherwise, you will fall prey to propaganda.” For that, he was charged with “lèse-majesté,” or defaming the monarchy — a ludicrous charge that could bring a 15-year prison sentence.
The elephant battle involved an alleged duel in 1593 between King Naresuan and Crown Prince Mingyi Swa. Many scholars have noted that historical records do not show any formal duel, though an elephant battle did occur. Sivaraksa was clearly referencing this research, but Naresuan is idolized by the Thai military.
The arrest of Sivaraksa is only one of more than 100 lèse-majesté arrests since 2014, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.
Sivaraksa told NPR: “In this country, myth becomes truth and I questioned the myth.”
The arrest of Sivaraksa is an utter disgrace by another U.S. ally which denies the most basic civil liberties to citizens and non-citizens alike.