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Deafening silence to extremist proposal is worrying

In a way, Thai society should thank Mallika Boonmetrakul, deputy spokesperson of the Democrat Party, for speaking her mind last weekend. Mallika, a staunch royalist, said that if all attempts to block or ban online content deemed defamatory to the monarchy failed, then the government should adopt her "final solution" of blocking Facebook and YouTube completely.

I have no reason to doubt Mallika's ultra-royalist credentials and this proposal seems very worrisome. The only good thing is that at last we can hear the voice of extremism speak to us loud and clear in public.

Never mind that Thailand already has tight censorship and draconian laws and that the mainstream mass media has to exercise caution with regard to any news or commentary that might be even mildly critical of the monarchy.

Never mind that publications like The Economist have a strange habit of disappearing from local news agents if they carry an article critical about the Thai royal family. Never mind that a 61-year-old was sentenced to 20 years in jail for allegedly sending four messages defaming the monarchy to a politician, or that Joe Gordon faces a verdict next week for translating and uploading "The King Never Smiles" - a banned book that is freely available in Singapore.

Mallika wants more.

But please don't laugh at her. Two Facebook pages have already been set up in her support. This is kind of ironic because Mallika, a former television host, herself proposed that Facebook be shut down as part of her "final solution" to protect the monarchy.

Despite the barrage of online criticism and even the setting up of a mock Twitter account (@NotMallikaBoon), Mallika remains steadfast in her conviction. Sadly, ideology like this risks dragging Thailand back to the dark ages of the Inquisition in Europe or turning it into a country like North Korea or Burma.

Mallika should realise that shutting down space for critical discussion will eventually backfire because mankind is essentially a curious and inquisitive animal.

Over the past few days, some of the so-called "liberal royalists" have expressed concerns about the impact the lese-majeste law would have on the monarchy, and so Mallika's proposal came as a shock to them.

One such royalist, Trisdee na Patalung - a young classical music conductor with a few thousand followers on Twitter - pulled out his support for the Democrat Party after it failed to take a stand against its deputy spokesperson.

"I would like to bid farewell to the Democrat Party, after having marked the ballot box [for the party] all my life. Thanks for the good times we shared," Trisdee tweeted on Monday evening.

Much as I admire people like Trisdee, with whom I have had meaningful discussions on what can be done about the lese-majeste law and the censorship that is increasingly restricting public discussion on the monarchy, I feel that liberal royalists are not doing enough to let their voices heard. Most of these people appear to have abdicated their responsibility to even call for the most modest of reforms.

So any moves as to what can be done about the freedom of expression regarding the highest institution have been hijacked and dominated by ultra-royalist, extreme and embarrassing voices like those of Mallika.

Yet, there are some people who defend the Democrat Party's silence, but this silence is in itself an answer even though party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva tweeted on Tuesday that the Democrats had no such policy. Plus the silence of the Thai mainstream media and society at large regarding Mallika's proposed "final solution" has been "deafening" indeed.


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