Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Monday 12 March 2007

When visiting Thailand, don't 'diss' the King!

Seriously. Thais respect their monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Anyone who might even remotely be thought not to have shown sufficient respect to Him can expect very harsh treatment at the hands of Thai courts - as Swiss man Oliver Jufer is learning. Jufer faces at least 7 years in prison after pleading guilty to defacing several portraits of the King; the country's Lese Majeste laws provide for a maximum of 75 years prison term, but he is expected not to be punished that harshly (and as Mr Jufer is 57 that is an important factor).

At one time I used to visit Bangkok on business very frequently (upto two or three times a month) and the hotel I used was adjacent to Lumpini Park (a little like Hyde Park in London in its importance as a 'green lung' at the heart of the city), which was surrounded by extremely busy traffic arteries. Often I would be leaving the hotel to walk down to the office at just before 8 a.m. - the first time I heard the national anthem being played from louspeakers all around that area, and everyone stopping and standing to attention, I was quite startled; the traffic comes to a halt as well. As a foreigner you were expected to do it too.

The Thais are lovely people. But you disrespect their King (especially the present holder of the title, who is genuinely revered) at your peril.

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