In yet another outrage by the Thai government’s use of the country’s Lèse majesté (prohibiting offenses against the crown), Australian writer Harry Nicolaides has been sentenced to three years in prison for insulting the crown in his 2005 book Verisimilitude. The sentence was originally six years but cut in half because of his guilty plea. In the meantime, British reporter Jonathan Head was charged under the laws for remarks that he made on a panel discussion at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.
The Thai royalty has been on a royal tear of late. In 2008, it sentenced a swiss man to ten years after, in a drunken fit, he defaced the image of the King. (He was pardoned after a month).
In the case of Head, police official Wattanasak Mungkandee filed a complaint after he heard remarks Head made while moderating a panel discussion at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on Dec 13 entitled Coup, Capital and Crown.
Nicolaides was arrested at the Bangkok airport for slandering the 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej and other members of the royal family.
In his sentencing, Nicolaides stated “I would like to apologize. This can’t be real. It feels like a bad dream. . . . I respect the king of Thailand, I was aware there were obscure laws (about the monarchy) but I didn’t think they would apply to me.” He referred enduring “unspeakable suffering” in custody.
The use of such laws (particularly against writers) should be a cause of international condemnation but it has been barely covered in the media.
Notably, only seven copies of the book were reportedly sold.
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