‘Copper’ is a cute name for a copper-coloured dog. Saved from the pound, Copper became the inseparable companion of an old, ailing man, who was so enamoured by his pet that he wrote a book about her which became a hugely successful film. Now this could be the intro for a feel-good documentary, you would think, hardly the opening lines to a real-life horror-story.
Thailand’s King Bhumipol Adulyadej has reigned for 70 years. More than 95% of all living Thais have never known another ruler. He is absolutely central to their lives, thanks in no small part to the Royal Thai Army, whose exertions came to a head in 2014 when they launched a coup d’état against the prime minister, and imposed a military junta that has steadily been abusing human rights in the name of the King ever since. The junta publicly announced in May 2014 that all lèse majesté offenders would be dealt with severely, and they weren’t kidding.
Now you can get locked up for almost anything in Bangkok: raising three fingers in the air, Mockingjay-style; wearing a ‘Peace’ t-shirt, reading Orwell’s ‘1984’ in public, wearing a red shirt while selling fried squid in public (I shit you not), covering your face, playing “La Marseillaise”, questioning the official histories, or (my favourite) eating a sandwich with ill-intent. I’ve tried that at home, and I’m telling you it’s not as easy as it sounds. Any vaguely, possibly, suggestively unpatriotic comment or ‘like’ on Facebook or Twitter and the Prime Minister/General will send the boys ’round:
Back to my example: Thai king meets mongrel dog and falls in puppy-love. King writes domestic ‘best-selling’ novel about mongrel dog which is adapted into domestic ‘box office hit’. But not everybody likes his book, or the film. A factory worker has the temerity to make a sarcastic comment about Copper online. What happens next? He gets snatched by spooks in the night, kidnapped for ten days only to emerges unrepresented before a military tribunal apparently for sentencing? Now perhaps this poorly-educated machinist was plotting sedition and fomenting support for a violent uprising against the King by spreading his poison via the inter webs. Or perhaps not. My point is, where’s the trial? Why would the king turn a blind eye, unless he approves. The junta don’t even pretend that justice prevails in Thailand, instead, this poor bloke faces life imprisonment for making sarcastic comments about some mongrel dog? In 2015 — that’s gotta be bullshit, right?
So what’s Australia’s response? ‘We are gravely concerned’ says our Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, putting on a gravely-concerned face that’s almost indistinguishable from her resting-bitch-face. Empty platitudes. Now, a brief but mandatory segue here to correct some of you Bishop fan-boys. There are people who maintain with a straight-face, and apparently sober, that Julia is a hotty. Let me correct the public record. Unless we have slipped into an alternate universe, Julie Bishop has a face that curdles milk at a thousand yards. Her expression makes the moai of Easter Island seem emotional. This woman is all-Medusa and no-snake. I’m told she keeps a male concubine; my only advice to him is to polish his shield.
So what’s to become of our sarcastic machinist? Will he spend the rest of his miserable life in some overcrowded hellhole scooping rat turds out of his tom yam goong? I doubt his game plan is 38 years in the Bangkok Hilton then presidency of the newly-minted Thai democracy. More likely, he’ll die in prison for a flippant tweet. I bet if he was an attractive caucasian woman there would be diplomatic petitions at highest levels. Unfortunately for the machinist, he doesn’t have Schapelle Corby’s PR machine behind him, or her winsome looks.
I could segue here to some fantastical rescue mission launched by Barney and his fellow Expendables, but I doubt this story has a happy ending, and no point making it worse for the poor guy by playing it for laughs. Just another anonymous face lying in his own shit on a concrete floor being brutalised by the guards while the King sips darjeeling out of a gilt cup.
Good luck mate.