Giles Ji Ungpakorn

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Giles Ji Ungpakorn (Thai: ใจ อึ๊งภากรณ์; rtgsChai Uengphakon; IPA[tɕāj ʔɯ́ŋ.pʰāː.kɔ̄ːn]; born 25 October 1953) is a Thai-British academic and political activist. He formerly worked as an associate professor at Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, before he fled to the United Kingdom after facing a lèse majesté charge in Thailand.

Early life and education[edit]

Giles Ji Ungpakorn is the youngest son of former Bank of Thailand governor and Thammasat University rector Puey Ungpakorn (Thai: ป๋วย อึ๊งภากรณ์, rtgsPuai Uengphakon), and his wife Margaret Smith of London,[1] and holds both Thai and British citizenship.[2] He has two older brothers, Jon Ungpakorn and Peter Ungpakorn. Giles Ungpakorn was educated in England at Sussex and Durham Universities and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London before returning to Thailand in 1997.

Political role[edit]

In 2006, after the military staged a coup and revoked the constitution, Ungpakorn led a demonstration in downtown Bangkok by university students.[3] He was later accused of lèse majesté for writing a book called A Coup for the Rich, where he argued that the coup was illegitimate and supported by the King. Ungpakorn is widely known as an activist with the socialist, Turn Left Thailand group.[citation needed].

In February 2007, his English-language academic work A Coup for the Rich was refused distribution by the Chulalongkorn University bookstore. His listing the controversial The King Never Smiles, which he has reviewed and criticised, as a reference was the explanation given by the store manager.[4]

Giles Ungpakorn was formally charged with lese majeste in Bangkok on January 20, 2009. He had 20 days to respond to the charges, after which the Thai authorities would decide whether his case would be given to the Thai courts for prosecution. Ungpakorn said he was being charged because of the contents of his book A Coup for the Rich, which points out the main reasons the coup in Thailand two years prior took place. He fled Thailand in February 2009, returning to the United Kingdom. He stated, "I did not believe I would receive a fair trial."[5]

Giles Ungpakorn is a self-declared republican and a vocal opponent of the Thai monarchy and the military.[6] While fleeing Thailand, he wrote Red Siam Manifesto, which explicitly criticised King Bhumibol Adulyadej.[7] He has criticised King Bhumibol for being a "weak, unprincipled" monarch who has never supported democracy, and holds the army, the elites, and the king responsible for supporting the Thammasat University Massacre of 1976.[8][9][10] He has also fiercely denounced the king's much-touted sufficiency economy principles, branding it an arrogant commandment for the poor to know their place, given that the King is the richest monarch in the world.[11] He also declares himself a Marxist.[12] He is a member of the Thai socialist group Turn Left Thailand, which is part of the Trotskyist International Socialist Tendency. Giles is also a Red Shirt and member of Kon Thai UK, a Red Shirt organisation in the UK.

In an opinion piece written for the Asia Sentinel website he has discounted the prospects of a successful social and political reform, and has aligned himself with those who are calling for a social revolution to occur in Thailand.[13] Giles has also criticised those who advocate armed struggle.

His latest English language book, Thailand's Crisis and the Fight for Democracy, published in early 2010, is Giles' attempt to explain the present situation in Thailand before the Red Shirt demonstrations and clashes with the military in April and May 2010. A post with the name "Ugly Truth Thailand" is run under Giles Ungpakorn's name. It talks about many controversial topics of Thailand's politics. Ungpakorn discusses the social movements' role in democracy in details.


  1. ^ Oh Blue-Eyed Thais, Flaunt Your Western Genes! by Seth Mydans
  2. ^ Giles Ji Ungpakorn
  3. ^ Huggler, Justin (2006-09-23). "Thai students defy protest ban to demand the return of democracy". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  4. ^ Subhatra Bhumiprabhas (2008-02-28). "Chula bans second coup book". The Nation. Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  5. ^ Campbell, Duncan (2009-02-09). "British professor flees Thailand after charge of insulting king". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  6. ^ Ungpakorn, Giles Ji (2009-09-18). "Opinion: Democracy Suffers in Thailand". Asia Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  7. ^ Walker, Andrew; Farrelly, Nicholas (2009-02-20). "Special interview: Giles Ungpakorn, part 1". New Mandala. Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  8. ^ Ungpakorn, Giles Ji (2009-09-03). "Soapbox: Da Torpedo's case pushes Thailand back to the Dark Ages". Asia Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  9. ^ Ungpakorn, Giles Ji (2009-02-10). "Red Siam Manifesto". Asia Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  10. ^ Video on YouTube
  11. ^ Ungpakorn, Giles Ji (2009-02-10). "Red Siam Manifesto". Asia Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  12. ^ Wittayakorn Boonreung (2007-10-30). "Interview with Giles Ungpakorn: politics, coups, elections and the left". Prachatai. Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  13. ^ Ungpakorn, Giles Ji (2009-09-03). "Soapbox: Da Torpedo's case pushes Thailand back to the Dark Ages". Asia Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-02-06. 

External links[edit]