Sulak Sivaraksa. Credit: Right Livelihood Foundation/Ulrike Altekruse

44 Right Livelihood Laureates: Dismiss the Case Against Thailand’s Sulak Sivaraksa

Right Livelihood Award Laureate Sulak Sivaraksa, aged 84, faces up to 15 years in jail after being officially charged with lèse-majesté relating to a speech in which he referenced the role of 16th century King Naresuan at the Battle of Nong Sarai in 1593. 44 fellow Laureates from 32 different countries are today together with representatives of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation demanding the case be dismissed in an open letter to Thailand’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai. Sivaraksa was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1995 for his “vision activism and spiritual commitment in the quest for a development process that is rooted in democracy justice and cultural integrity”.

Sulak Sivaraksa, Right Livelihood Laureate (1995)

“To be a decent human being, one must be able to speak the truth, especially to those in power,” said Sulak Sivaraksa.

“People should remind the Thai government that they are now honouring the late King with a wonderful ceremony, but the best way to honour the late King is to free his subjects from the severe lèse-majesté law,” said Sulak Sivaraksa.

Open Letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand

Dear Honourable Minister Pramudwinai,

We are writing to you on behalf of the board, staff and undersigned Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, a Swedish charity that honours four individuals or organisations each year who have demonstrated exemplary practical solutions to the root causes of global problems. The Foundation currently has 170 Laureates from 69 countries.

Sulak Sivaraksa was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1995 for his “vision, activism and spiritual commitment in the quest for a development process that is rooted in democracy, justice and cultural integrity”.

We are deeply distressed to learn that on October 9th 2017, Ajarn Sulak was summoned to a military court by the police and was officially charged with lèse-majesté under Article 112 of the criminal code. The remarks in question relate to a speech given by Ajarn Sulak in 2014 at Thammasat University, during which he referenced the role of 16th century King Naresuan at the Battle of Nong Sarai in 1593. The Chief Public Prosecutor has required Ajarn Sulak to present himself at his office for another meeting on December 7th 2017, where he will determine whether to proceed with the case or not. If found guilty of the charge, Ajarn Sulak could face the prospect of up to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Ajarn Sulak did not make any statement referencing His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn, his immediate family, or his late father, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, that would constitute an offence under Article 112 of the criminal code. Instead, Ajarn Sulak was simply exercising his freedom of academic expression to comment on historical matters. Therefore, we strongly believe that these charges brought against Ajarn Sulak are unsubstantiated, vexatious and do not constitute a criminal offence under the lèse-majesté law. We, the undersigned, urge you to use your good offices to request that the public prosecutor dismiss this case immediately.

Thank you very much for your consideration.

Signed by:

  1. Monika Griefahn, Chair, Board of Trustees, Right Livelihood Award Foundation.
  2. Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director, Right Livelihood Award Foundation.
  3. Prof Dr. h.c. (mult.) Manfred Max-Neef, Director, Economics Institute, Universidad Austral de Chile, Chile (RLA 1983)
  4. Bill McKibben, Founder of, USA (RLA 2014)
  5. Nnimmo Bassey, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nigeria (RLA 2010)
  6. Dr. Anwar Fazal, Director, Right Livelihood College, Malaysia (RLA 1982)
  7. Ruchama Marton, Founder and President, Physicians for Human Rights, Israel (RLA 2010)
  8. Chico Whitaker Ferreira, Brazil (RLA 2006)
  9. Tony Clarke, Executive Director, Polaris Institute, Canada (RLA 2005)
  10. Paul F. Walker, Director, Environmental Security and Sustainability, Green Cross International, USA (RLA 2013)
  11. David Suzuki, Emeritus Professor, University of British Columbia, Canada (RLA 2009)
  12. Khadija Ismayilova, Azerbaijan (RLA 2017)
  13. Dr. Raúl A. Montenegro, President, Fundación para la defensa del ambiente, Argentina (RLA 2004)
  14. Wesley Jackson, Founder and President, The Land Institute, USA (RLA 2000)
  15. P K Ravindran, Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, India (RLA 1996)
  16. Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, New Zealand/Switzerland (RLA 2009)
  17. Basil Fernando, Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong (RLA 2014)
  18. Swami Agnivesh, India (RLA 2004)
  19. Angie Zelter, Trident Ploughshares, United Kingdom (RLA 2001)
  20. Sima Samar, Chairperson, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Afghanistan (RLA 2012)
  21. Bianca Jagger, Founder, President and Chief Executive, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, Member of the Executive Director’s Leadership Council of Amnesty International USA, Nicaragua/United Kingdom, (RLA 2004)
  22. Helena Norberg-Hodge, Director, Local Futures / Ladakh Ecological Development Group, India (RLA 1986)
  23. Shrikrishna Upadhyay, Executive Chairman, Support Activities for Poor Producers of Nepal, Nepal (RLA 2010)
  24. Monika Hauser, Founder, Medica Mondiale, Germany (RLA 2008)
  25. Colin Gonsalves, Senior Advocate, India (RLA 2017)
  26. András Biró, Hungary (RLA 1995)
  27. Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice, South Korea (RLA 2003)
  28. Tapio Mattlar, Kylätoiminta / The Finnish Village Action Movement, Finland (RLA 1992)
  29. Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad (RLA 2011)
  30. Johan Galtung, Founder, Transcend International, Norway (RLA 1987)
  31. Martín von Hildebrand, Founder and Director, Fundación GAIA Amazonas, Colombia (RLA 1999)
  32. Juan Pablo Orrego, President, Ecosistemas, Chile (RLA 1998)
  33. Maude Barlow, National Chairperson, Council of Canadians, Canada (RLA 2005)
  34. Stephen Corry, Director, Survival International, United Kingdom (RLA 1989)
  35. IBFAN, the International Baby Food Action Network, Switzerland (RLA 1998)
  36. GRAIN, International (RLA 2011)
  37. Martin Almada, Paraguay (RLA 2002)
  38. Gino Strada, Co-Founder, EMERGENCY, Italy (RLA 2015)
  39. Asma Jahangir, Pakistan (RLA 2014)
  40. Glorene A Das, Executive Director Tenaganita, on behalf of the late Irene Fernandez, Malaysia (RLA 2005)
  41. Mozn Hassan, Director, Nazra Institute for Feminist Studies, Egypt (RLA 2016)
  42. Vesna Teršelič, Croatia (RLA 1998)
  43. Fernando Rendón, Co-Founder and Director, International Poetry Festival of Medellín, Colombia (RLA 2006)
  44. Helen Mack Chang, Fundación Myrna Mack, Guatemala (RLA 1992)
  45. Memorial International, Russia (RLA 2004)
  46. Zafrullah Chowdhury, Gonoshasthaya Kendra, Bangladesh (RLA 1992)