American Blogger Arrested in Thailand for Insulting King
An American citizen has been arrested in Thailand and charged with insulting the southeast Asian country’s monarch.
According to the Associated Press, 54-year-old Joe Gordon, whose Thai name is Lerpong Wichaikhammat, was arrested in Nakhon Ratchasima province in the northeast on Tuesday and faces charges that include inciting public unrest and violating the Computer Crimes Act. He appeared before a Bangkok court on Thursday and was denied bail.
Gordon allegedly posted a link on his blog to a banned book about the country’s king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, four years ago. He is also suspected of translating some an unauthorized biography of the ailing 83-year-old monarch titled “The King Never Smiles.” Additionally, Gordon allegedly posted online articles that are said to defame the royal family. All these charges are being made by Thailand’s equivalent of the FBI, the Department of Special Investigation.
Thailand, where the royal family is highly revered, has harsh lese majeste laws that impose strict penalties for anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir to the throne or the Regent.” Under these laws, Gordon could face up to 15 years behind bars. Additionally, the 2007 Computer Crimes Act allows for fines up to 100,000 baht ($3,285) and five years’ imprisonment for circulating materials deemed harmful to national security.
The Thai government, which has severely restricted citizens’ freedom following a 2006 military coup, has been using the lese majeste laws with frightening increasing frequency in recent years. According to the Associated Press, Thailand has slipped from 65th to 153rd in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index since 2002. The number of lese majeste cases has skyrocketed as well. There were an average of five a year from 1990 to 2005, but since then there have been at least 400 cases.
Just this March, a Thai court sentenced Thanthawut Taweewarodomkul to 13 years behind bars for defaming the king and three more years for violating the Computer Crime Act. Taweewarodomkul ran an anti-government website and was associated with the Red Shirt freedom movement.
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