Lese Majesty Means Less Speech: Thai Court Sentences U.S. Citizen To Over Two Years In Jail For Defaming Royal Family

We have previously discussed the assault on free speech around the world, including in the West. The Thai courts have added to this ignoble trend by sentencing American Joe Gordon, 55, to two and half years for “defaming” the Thai Royal Family. Defamation law is quite different in other countries, including close allies like Italy, France, and England, and often used to punish critics of the government. Gordon was convicted for simply posting a link to an unapproved biography of the King. It is an example of the outdated use of lese majesty offenses — offense against the dignity of a sovereign.

Gordon only succeeded in lowering the sentence from five years by pleading guilty.

Notably, he was convicted for an act that occurred while he was living in the United States. He was jailed when he went to Thailand for treatment for arthritis and high blood pressure.

The sentence is an abomination and should shock the conscience of the free world. The fact that the King has allowed this prosecution to go forward without asking for charges being dropped only shows that he is beyond contempt. This sentence not only shows the dangerous folly of lese-majesty laws but of royalty generally.

Source: LA Times

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8 thoughts on “Lese Majesty Means Less Speech: Thai Court Sentences U.S. Citizen To Over Two Years In Jail For Defaming Royal Family”

  1. More off task than usual. The American, Joe Gordon, was born in Thailand and judging from the name was born a Thai national (the LA Times is oddly inattentive to this). The book in question has been banned for years. The current King has, until recently, been revered as the only stabling force in a country that has had numerous coups and much intramural intrigues among its governments, with fractures among alliances and entourages more important than ideology. The King has been ill for quite some time and there is much uncertainty about the future and viability of the royal family. It is in that context and the context of a new government under the daughter of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra that this has occurred. Thailand has the freest press in Asia and tolerance in many areas (such as putting up with any number of tiresome Christian missionaries over time), while being sometimes ruthless in the suppression of other liberties. The lese-majeste laws occur in an environment where film/video censorship is quite strict and a return to the law and order campaigns of Thaksin Shinawatra have been feared. His government had led a repressive war on drugs that killed thousands without due process. In other words, lese-majeste is being used to prosecute a Thai who now lives in the US at a time of great political uncertainty in a govt run by the daughter of a ruthless opponent of civil liberties. It’s not some isolated thing and it doesn’t involve a random “American” or a random book.

  2. That sure is one way to promote tourism… Jail anyone who ever posted anything negative about the establishment as soon as they land.

    Prof. you may want to avoid the USSR…err Russia until emperor Putin is no longer the puppet master.

    Tell me there is a human rights org or someone in govt working to repeal this.
    And its ironic Mike that when people poking fun at president bush’s frequent fumbling of words were labeled unamerican by the right, you go to any conservative website like Drudge turn on fox or conservative radio and you will hear these same people talking about the current president and his wife like dogs or worse. With little to no facts to back up their assertions.

  3. “He was jailed when he went to Thailand for treatment for arthritis and high blood pressure. ”

    See how much we need to establish universal health care? This man was imprisoned abroad for needing routine medical care.

  4. If the Republicans gain control of the White House and Congress next years forms of these laws will be quickly established. Remember the Bush years when merely wearing a negative T-shirt to a Bush speech were grounds for expulsion and arrest.

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