Entry One: Freedom to Speech in Thailand, unless you want to say something about ...

Heather Ley
Posted December 4, 2014 from United States

As a United States citizen, I have the legally protected right of my freedom to speech. Until this semester in Thailand, I had never recognized how great of privilege this was for me. I had never had this right challenged before or taken away.

Following a military led coup in May 2014, a military junta and its elected prime minister is currently governing Thailand under martial law. The junta has imposed restrictions on the right to freedom to speech. Most apparently, its prevention of anyone in Thailand from speaking out against or in opposition to the coup, junta, military, or monarchy, such act is punishable by law.

As a student here, I have at times experienced the affects of these restrictions and deteriorated freedoms of Thailand's citizens. This has included my political science professors not able to publicly criticize the coup or military, the military shutting down conferences and university events in which Thailand’s governance may potentially be discussed, and our class being asked by the military to leave democracy monument in Bangkok during an educational field trip, where are professor was going to give us an on-site lecture. More recently, the junta temporarily blocked all access within Thailand to the Human Rights Watch website after it challenged the junta. However access to the Human Rights Watch website was quickly restored after an article was published noting the military's restriction of the website (http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/445752/thai-junta-blocks-human-r...). I think this was the most poignant moment for me of what power the military currently has in Thailand and the potential risks of that power, if mistreated, to the people of Thailand. For me, though luckily I only had to experience it for an incredibly short amount of time, it was scary to not have the capability to inform myself on the situation in Thailand from a reputable, impartial source.

After studying here, I have found an incredibly grateful appreciation for my many rights, particularly my right to freedom to speech. With this appreciation also comes a personal desire to promote free speech around the world. This network offers a tangible way for me do that in sharing, hearing, and supporting our voices!

Comments 4

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  • Ukhengching Marma
    Dec 04, 2014
    Dec 04, 2014

    Hello, Great Job dear. Freedom of speech which is now one of the restricted issue in many countries across the world. A person has the right to speak out against any kind of injustice happening in front of her. As being a Bangladeshi i face many difficulties to speak up against violence more often, i feel so helpless then. But people should have more freedom to practice free speeches. I abhor the restricted boundary of any GOVT. Thanks for sharing your amazing piece of writting. Such motivating woman you are. Love from Bangladesh Ukheng

  • keaveney.megan
    Dec 08, 2014
    Dec 08, 2014

    Dear Heather,

    I too, share in your appreciation and complex understanding of Thailand's freedoms and rights of its citizens. I was a former study abroad student in Thailand and actually had to evacuate the country a few years back. Thank you for sharing your perspective on Thailand's lese majeste laws and I hope your experience continues to deepen and enrich your understanding of the issues at hand.

    Warmly, Megan

  • Amriyota
    Dec 08, 2014
    Dec 08, 2014

    Hi Heather , You have captured an important issue and I agree with you. Freedom speech is the pillar of human rights. I believe someday all the tortured souls will speak for themselves . Wish you all the best


  • Lea
    Aug 14, 2015
    Aug 14, 2015

    Thank you for this great piece, Heather. Living in another country where freedom of speech is significantly curbed does make you appreciate your right to express yourself in your home country. We often take for granted our right to speak out against injustices in our societies when we have the opportunity to do so. Your experience in Thailand clearly showed you the impact that a government's laws can have on people's right to express themselves. It's great that your observations of the coup from last May propelled you to support freedom of speech around the world!