Thailand's psycho Lese-Majeste Law tosses USA citizen blogger into Thai prison / fight for free speech, overthrow King Bhumibol today
Thursday 8 December 2011
US citizen jailed for
insulting Thai monarch
by Gwen Robinson in Bangkok
[photo] A Thai-born US citizen Joe Gordon, 55, looks on from inside a cell
A former Colorado car salesman has been sentenced to 5 years in a Thai prison for translating an unauthorised biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and posting it on his blog while at home in the US.
Joe Wichai Commart Gordon, a Thai-born US citizen, was arrested and detained in May, during a holiday in Thailand. He was charged under both the country’s strict lese-majesty law, under which it is illegal to insult the monarchy, and computer crimes act.
His lese-majesty arrest and conviction is believed to be the first of a foreign citizen for activities outside Thailand.
Mr Gordon, 55, pleaded guilty in October to translating and posting excerpts of The King Never Smiles, a 2006 biography, which has been banned in Thailand. The Thai Criminal Court on Thursday sentenced him to five years but halved the jail term, citing his guilty plea.
A US embassy spokesman in Bangkok, Walter Braunohler, said Washington was “deeply troubled” by the conviction and other recent prosecutions under the lese-majesty laws, which he said were “not consistent with international standards of freedom of expression”.
“The US has utmost respect for the Thai monarchy”, Mr Braunohler added.
Mr Gordon’s case has intensified the debate over Thailand’s lese-majesty laws. “Where is justice?” one Thai asked on Facebook. “Why don’t they arrest the author of the book?”
Last month a retired Thai truck driver, Ampon Tangnoppaku, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for allegedly sending text messages that insulted Queen Sirikit. In a case that drew strong protests from ordinary Thais, Mr Ampon wept in court and denied the charges.
“No one should be charged, tried, or imprisoned under these laws, and those already affected should be freed,” said Benjamin Zawacki, Asia researcher for Amnesty International.
The way the law is applied in Thailand is “clearly problematic and susceptible to abuse”, said Nicholas Grossman, chief editor of the new biography King Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life’s Work.
“Many Thais try to protect the king,” Anand Panyarachun, a former Thai prime minister, said at the launch of Mr Grossman’s book. “In fact, we are doing a lot of damage to the monarchy, or even to the King himself”.
King Bhumibol, who turned 84 this week, has himself spoken out against the laws and regularly pardoned Thais convicted of lese-majesty. Legal experts estimate that nearly 480 charges of lese-majesty were sent to Thailand’s lower court last year, with the conviction rate running at more than 90 per cent.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011.
Labels: Bhumibol Thailand Lese Majeste