Hannah visited Thailand as part of the Right to Refuse to Kill Programme's work to support conscientious objection, and movements against conscription.
Memorials to Bhumibol Adulyadej seen in train stations and public spacesWhen I arrived in Bangkok in November, many people were in mourning Bhumibol Adulyadej - the king who died on 13th October after seven decades on the throne. I travelled there along with Jungmin Choi and Yongsuk Lee, two members of World Without War (WRI's affiliate in Korea).
This period of mourning was evident in peoples' homes, in public spaces, and in the very atmosphere of cities and town. Festivals were cancelled or curtailed, most people still dressing in black (or wearing black ribbons) over a month after his death, and memorials and commemorative videos found in bus stations, temples, and the metro.
Alongside this respect for the monarch lies a coercive tradition: Thailand's strict lèse-majesté laws (prohibiting criticism of the royal family) inhibit freedom of speech, and have been used against activists as a weapon. Dissent is a social taboo, as well as illegal under Article 112 of the Penal Code. Although the lèse-majesté laws only apply to the King, Queen, Royal Heir (now Rama X), and Regent, they have been widely used for suppression, even for those who mock the King’s favourite dog, Thong Daeng (Copper), and the Crown Prince’s poodle Foo Foo, who was elevated to the status of Air Marshal, complete with uniform. Many are arrested for innocuous Facebook comments and hyperlinks.
Since the most recent coup of 2014, a military government has been in place, and their rhetoric reinforces their position as protector and champion of the monarchy. So it was an interesting time to visit Thailand for the first time!