The Washington Post

In Zimbabwe and Thailand, lese-majeste alive and well on leaders’ birthdays

Never insult the president of Zimbabwe or the Thai king on their birthdays.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe blows out candles on his 88th birthday cake in Mutare. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP)

Four thousand miles away in a Bangkok courtroom, a Thai man was found guilty Wednesday of insulting the monarchy during several public speeches, the Telegraph reports. Surachai Danwattananusorn told the Bangkok Post that he believed his most inflammatory comment was a question about why the king did not appear for his birthday speech in 2008.

Zimbabwe and Thailand both have controversial laws based around the concept of “lese-majesty,” which makes it an offense to insult the government’s leadership.

Lese-majesty dates back to ancient Rome and has been enforced in recent years in countries as varied as Brunei, Poland, the Maldives, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Syria, according to the BBC.


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