07 March 2023

(‘royal calendar’)

Khana Ratsadon

A Thai man was jailed for two years today, after being convicted of lèse-majesté for distributing a calendar featuring a cartoon duck. The 2021 desk calendar, published by the Khana Ratsadon pro-democracy protest group, was titled ปฏิทินพระราชทาน (‘royal calendar’), in what the police claimed was an attempt to imitate an official royal publication. The lèse-majesté conviction also related to five of the calendar’s cartoons, illustrating the months of January, March, April, May, and October. (The images cannot be reproduced or described, as this would constitute a repetition of the lèse-majesté offence.)

The convicted man was arrested on New Year’s Eve 2020, and he remains on bail pending an appeal. His lawyer had previously argued that the calendar was a parody of state institutions, and did not caricature King Rama X personally. This defence was always unlikely to succeed, though, given that the cartoon duck is depicted with a rather unambiguous “NO. 10” medal. The July and September cartoons, in particular, feature surprisingly thinly-veiled references to Rama IX and Rama X, respectively.

This is the fourth calendar to be confiscated by the Thai authorities in recent years. Wall calendars featuring photographs of former prime ministers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawawtra were seized in 2018 and 2016. In 2010, a wall calendar by the beer company Leo was accused of promoting alcohol in contravention of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act.

Since the yellow duck calendar, there have been several other satirical cartoon animals in Thai popular culture. The cover of สมุดระบายสีเสรีภาพ (‘freedom colouring book’) shows an elephant painted blue, a colour with symbolic significance in Thailand. A monstrous spider that makes a split-second appearance in The Commoner’s music video รุ้ง (‘rainbow’) has a human face with a distinctive jawline.

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