Mocks like a duck | Marcel Strigberger

By Marcel Strigberger

Law360 Canada (April 14, 2023, 3:08 PM EDT) --
Marcel Strigberger
Rubber duck aficionados: Beware. Planning to travel to Thailand? Travel advisory follows:

A lawyer in Thailand has been jailed for two years for selling calendars featuring cartoon rubber ducks that judges ruled mocked Thailand’s monarch.

Rubber ducks have apparently become a mascot for Thailand’s pro-democracy movement. Protesters have even used large duck-shaped inflatable dinghies to protect themselves from violence by the authorities in their demonstrations pushing for curbs to the power of the monarchy.

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn, also known as Rama X, has been the repeated target of pro-democracy demonstrations in the country.

Prosecutors argued the ducks shown in the calendars sold by the accused lawyer, whose alias Tonmai was used in the proceedings, were deliberately intended to resemble King Rama X.

One of the rubber ducks in the calendar wore a crop top and sunglasses, in apparent reference to the monarch wearing the same outfit. Another apparently wore a condom on its head, allegedly in reference to Rama X’s reputation as a playboy and womanizer.

Prosecutors also argued that the ducks were defamatory toward the King.

Given the increase in this illicit and illegal duck activity, what’s next? I can just see Thai officials monitoring arrivals at the airport in Bangkok to prevent all entry of this contraband. They would likely employ beagles, specially trained to sniff out rubber ducks. If a one of these hounds sniffs around your luggage and sits down in front of it, you’re a dead ... never mind. The Thai police would refer to this crackdown with a name, such as Operation Quack. Travellers to Thailand are advised to leave their rubber duckies on the plane. Before deplaning just hand them over to the flight attendants. They’ll understand.

Given the severity of the rubber duck crisis I would not be surprised to see the Thai government enlisting the help of other countries to prevent the import and proliferation of these birds. News flash-Interpol in Marseilles seizes 55 kilograms of yellow rubber concealed in a container at the port. This is enough to make about 225 ducks.

And should you be bold enough to try to import any of those ducks, and you get arrested, do ask to contact the Canadian Embassy. External Affairs will arrange to have a lawyer visit you at the jail. I however foresee problems for anyone foolish enough to try to smuggle in these verboten ducks. The authorities are kick ass tough. One visitor tries to sneak in five small yellow duckies inside a large rubber chicken. When caught, police do not accept his explanation that given the container they were in, this was obviously a joke. Nor did they buy his pleas that the little ducks were only for personal use. It does not help when he tells the cops he needs the company of his little yellow friends when he takes his baths. The moral of the story is, if it looks like a duck, you’re stuck.

And if convicted, we see that offenders are facing mandatory jail time. The only positive aspect is that probably Canadian and Thai governments would work out a bilateral agreement whereby those convicted in Thailand for mocking of the monarch by rubber ducking can be eligible to serve their custodial time in a Canadian prison.

This might be of some consolation. But then again would you want to be at the mess hall in a prison and when asked by your fellow inmates what you are in for, have to say, “Uh, shucks, don’t ask. They caught me in Thailand with a dozen rubber ducks.” 

Actually Tonmai the defendant claimed he had been unaware of the content of the calendars, having been in charge of delivering rather than selling the items. His argument was rejected on grounds that he possesses a law degree and must therefore have had some sense of the calendars’ illegal content.

So beware. You are forewarned. If asked by Thai customs officials how things are, whatever you say, don’t answer, “My ducks are all in a row.”

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His just launched book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is now available on Amazon, (e-book) and paper version by pre-release sale order. Visit Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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