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Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, Treason, and Lèse-Majesté (Rethinking Southeast Asia) Hardcover – September 27, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0415414258 ISBN-10: 0415414253 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews


"This big, brave and important book argues that defamation laws are the cornerstone of Thailand's authoritarian political culture. They have strangled the media, wrecked public debate, undermined artistic and intellectual work, and ensured impunity for a long litany of state crimes. They underpin an authoritarian control of thought and expression that is extraordinary in a country that likes to think of itself as a democracy... This book is a brilliant essay on Thailand's legal history based on very detailed research into legislation and case law. In addition, it offers a complex, thoughtful and wide-ranging diagnosis of current discontents. Its rich historical and international perspective should make Thailand's democrats and Democrats pause to wonder where the country is heading." Chris Baker, Bangkok Post, November 2010

"David Streckfuss has done a great service to the study of lèse-majesté law and of its role in protecting the political and economic interests of the Thai monarchy. [Truth on Trial in Thailand] is a fine, exhaustively referenced study of the history of lèse-majesté law and of Thailand’s defamation laws more generally. It will be an authoritative reference book for a public now very much focused on the problem that lèse-majesté poses for Thai democracy." Patrick Jory, NM-TLC Reviewer

 "The book’s thirteen chapters are rich in detail and observation... Thematically organized, the chapters offer an incomparable history of lèse-majesté, law and Thai-ness, public opinion, and the science of traitorology. Of especial relevance given the recent discussion of the judicialization of politics in Thailand is Streckfuss’s remarkable account... of the institutionalization of the “state of exception” by Thai courts working in conjunction with the police and military. This monumental volume is destined to take a leading place in the field of critical studies of Asia." Michael K. Connors, Critical Asian Studies, 43:1 (2011), 139–149

"[T]he real strength of the book is its fascinating analysis of a vast quantity of primary source material, including the analysis of a number of court decisions and some wonderful interviews with government censors." David M. Engel, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor, School of Law, State University of New York at Buffalo; South East Asia Research

'This book is an important one, and the author’s research chops are formidable. The book serves as a critical history of Thai law, with a discussion of how lèse-majesté encompasses the world of the monarchy, politics, law enforcement, and religion in Thailand.' - Geoff Alexander, WOwasis 2013.

About the Author

David Streckfuss is an independent scholar who has lived in Thailand for more than 20 years. His work primarily concerns human rights, and political and cultural history.

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Product Details

  • Series: Rethinking Southeast Asia
  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (September 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415414253
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415414258
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,220,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Kevin Acers on November 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Thailand markets itself to tourists as a laid back place with easily accessible charms. Those who have lived there and peered beneath the surface of the veneer (just like anywhere else) have seen some of the warts. Institutionalized warts--codified warts related to a construct of national security/limitations on freedom of speech/opportunistic political exploitation of those limitations--are the subject of this book. It is an academic's piece-de-resistance, a thorough and careful analysis of the conundrum of using the legal code to control speech and loyalty, with disastrous absurdity. Dave Streckfuss knows his stuff. The book is for serious students of what's-wrong-with-this-picture? in the context of Thailand. It is also a clarion call for reform, a wagging of red flags that the authorities in Thailand would be wise to attend to--with a near certainty that they will not, if for no other reason than they have painted themselves into a corner, for to advocate change of the defamation and lese-majesty laws would almost certainly put them in the position of violating those same laws, which could result in 15-year prison terms, the most draconian penalties on the globe for such "offenses."
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Brian Knight on October 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
David Streckfuss is a direct and honest story-teller, describing in this well-researched academic book a compendium of conundrum, Thailand's criminal defamation 'ethic.' With years of research, study and personal experience at the helm, Streckfuss takes the open-minded reader into what seems an intractable problem - how to come to grips with decades of lies and violence perpetrated by a dangerous and yet fearful elite bent on preserving their dominated status quo at all costs, using the revered Thai monarchy as shield and cause-célèbre.
Dr. Streckfuss is joined in an earlier work by FEDERICO FERRARA, Assistant Professor with the Department of Asian and International Studies at the City University of Hong Kong ([...]), who wrote one of the most frank accounts of Thailand's innate character in his book Thailand Unhinged, by Equinox Publishing.
Streckfuss' book, however, is written as an academic work and by having done so the researcher and avid campaigner for needed social-political change in Thailand has provided an extensive foundation for subsequent researchers, students and others who want to understand what is happening in Thailand and why.
Writes Streckfuss, "The cleavages in Thai society--class, race, ethnic, religious, regional, and political-- so long papered over and held together by incessant calls for unity and a century-old constructions of an ossified national identity, are no longer deniable or manageable. The linchpin is the lèse-majesté law. The law's use does not indicate the strength of the Thai state but rather its utter desperation.
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