Friday, November 9, 2012

No Criticism Of Thai's Royal Family Allowed

Freedom Of Speech

An Associated Press article published in the Washington Post points out that freedom of speech is restricted in many nations, and for many reasons. In Thailand, for example, it is a crime to criticize the ruling royal family of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The article notes:
A Thai-born American who spent more than a year in prison on charges of insulting Thailand’s king says the country’s harsh laws outlawing criticism of the monarchy are holding back its democratic development. He has vowed never to return until his motherland stops being so “thin-skinned” and allows full freedom of expression.
Joe Gordon, who was convicted last year of translating excerpts of an unauthorized biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej from English into Thai and posting them online, said those jailed under Thai laws protecting the royal family often suffer abuse from prison guards and are treated “like animals.” While he now denies committing any crime, Gordon pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two and a half years in prison before receiving a royal pardon in July.
The punishment was a high-profile example of the severe sentences meted out here for defaming Thailand’s royal family, a crime known as “lese majeste.” The issue has drawn international attention and raised concern about freedom of speech in this Southeast Asian kingdom best known as the easygoing Land of Smiles, a tourist paradise that draws some 19 million visitors per year.
Gordon’s case also raised questions about the applicability of Thai law to acts committed by foreigners outside Thailand, since he posted the link while residing in the U.S. state of Colorado. “Freedom of expression is not harassment, and Thai people don’t understand that,” Gordon told The Associated Press before his planned departure from the country Thursday. He said in Thailand the attitude is “if you don’t believe and you don’t follow us in the way we are doing things, it means you are insulting us.”
That shows how far Thailand is from understanding the liberal democratic values and traditions that inform western nations. But then again, how could its citizens understand ideas that are completely foreign to them? The penalty for "insulting" the monarchy range from three to fifteen years behind bars.

You can read the rest of the article at [Washington Post]