Lese-Majeste and Sacred Kingship in Southeast Asia

In the works of 18th century comparative constitutional lawyer Montesquieu, the existence and use of lese-majeste laws was the ultimate marker of “oriental despotism”. Today, lese-majeste laws remain in use in various Southeast Asian countries to protect sacred monarchs, most prominently so in Thailand, but also in Brunei or Malaysia – and it was recently introduced in Cambodia. This paper seeks to explore the relationship between Lese-majeste and sacred Kingship in Southeast Asia, and reflect on possible distinctive “Southeast Asian” characteristics of such relationship.