The Royal Thai Police have launched an investigation regarding comments made by United States ambassador to Thailand, Glyn Davies. According to the authorities, the ambassador insulted the ruling party by making critical remarks of the country’s lack of freedom of assembly. Davies allegedly made the comments in late November.
Under Thai law, anyone who is convicted of insulting Thailand royalty or their policies can face up to 15 years in prison. Since the Royal Thai Army seized power last year, a record number of prison sentences have been given out for criticizing those in power.
The Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand (FCCT) has also been asked to assist in the investigation. Reports indicate that the FCCT will fully cooperate with Thai authorities in their investigation. The investigation started after a formal complaint was issued by concerned Thai nationalists.
A spokesperson for the Royal Thai Police said, “This matter is being investigated according to a complaint filed against the ambassador. We cannot conclude anything now and are following step by step.”
Most experts believe that ultimately nothing will happen to Davies. However, Thailand does have the authority to remove diplomatic immunity credentials at any point in time. Neither the United States embassy nor Davies have commented on the situation.
A separate police spokesperson said, “His Excellency the ambassador has diplomatic immunity so it is unlikely anything will proceed against him.”
In part of his comments, Davies expressed concern regarding the long prison sentences by military tribunals for alleged lese-majeste.
Davies said, “We are also concerned by the lengthy and unprecedented prison sentences handed down by Thai military courts against civilians for violating the lese-majeste law. We believe no one should be jailed for peacefully expressing their views and we strongly support the ability of individuals and independent organizations to research and to report on important issues without fear of retaliation.”
However, Davies also paid respect to the King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was actually born in Massachusetts. Bhumibol has ruled since 1946, making him the world’s current longest serving head of state.
Davies said, “We think he has done so many, many wonderful things not just for Thailand but for the United States and for the region.”
Following his critical remarks of Thai law, Thai nationalists organized a small protest outside of the American embassy. In Thailand, any citizen can make a claim of royal defamation. Thai police are duty bound to investigate such claims.
This is almost certainly the case here. Don’t expect much to come from Davies, who is, by all accounts, a respected Ambassador.