"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses...I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" These words, from poet Emma Lazarus, were inscribed on the Statue of Liberty over 100 years ago. Today the...
The autocratic leaders of Bahrain and Swaziland, a prominent Saudi Arabian prince and the next in line to Thailand’s throne were among some of the more controversial dignitaries at today's “Monarchs’ Lunch” in Windsor Castle.
The most controversial person on yesterday’s guest list was King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain. His regime has been roundly condemned by human rights groups for the slow pace of reforms and politicised trials that have taken place since widespread protests to his family’s rule broke out last year leading to the deaths of more than 60 people.
Only this week new allegations emerged suggesting a young man who was found dead earlier this year may have been tortured to death. An official report into the death of 23-year-old Yousef Mowali in January declared that he had drowned in the sea off the island of Bahrain. However a second autopsy published this week by an independent pathologist from Turkey found evidence that Mr Mowali may have been electrocuted and was unconscious when he drowned.
Eye-brows were also raised over the inclusion of the King of Swaziland whose retinue opted to stay in the £400 a night Savoy hotel despite presiding over a country where the average annual wage is little more than £1,500. Exiled Swazis protested outside the hotel on Wednesday night criticising sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch for his playboy lifestyle and spending habits.
Although Thailand’s monarchy heads up a constitutional democracy like Britain’s the inclusion of the country’s Crown Prince comes at a time of renewed debate and anger over Thailand’s stringent lese majeste laws. Earlier this month a 61-year-old man died in prison just months after he was handed down a 20-year jail term for sending offensive text messages about Thailand’s queen.
Opposition politicians in Bahrain told The Independent that King Hamad’s invitation to Windsor Castle sent out worrying signals that Britain was normalising relations with the Gulf Kingdom despite continued violence and dissatisfaction over the slow pace of promised reforms.
“This invitation is a gift to the regime and the hardliners,” said Matar Ebrahim, a prominent member of the Shi’a opposition party al Wefaq. “It will be the moderates and those who want to see reforms take place who will suffer. The British seemed to have reached the conclusion that they don’t need the Bahraini people, just the Khalifa regime.” Maryam al-Khawaja, whose father Abdulhadi is a prominent imprisoned opposition leader currently on hunger strike in a military jail, added: “The invitation is outrageous. It is salt in the wounds of the Bahraini people who have already had to pay such a high price in trying to push for greater freedoms.”
True to form, parts of the British media have not been shy with critical commentary about the foreign royals who joined Queen Elizabeth II to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. Along with Mswati III of Swaziland and Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn of Thailand has a spot on The Independent‘s “roll of dishonour”.
As PPT readers know, the military spends a small fortune each year propagandizing on behalf of the monarchy. It is a full-time job, when they are not blasting away at civilian oppositions. At the B......
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