Pardoned Thai-American speaks to the press on lese majeste
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Pardoned Thai-American speaks to the press on lese majeste

BP has blogged on the Thai-born naturalized American citizen Joe Gordon when he was arrested in May 2011 on lese majeste charges, then later blogged when the US government expressed disappointment when he was actually charged in August 2011 for translating The King Never Smiles, blogged again when he was jailed for two and a half years in December 2011, and then also when he received a pardon in July 2012.

Joe has now departed Thailand, but before his departure he spoke with BBC and AP. The BBC article is here – it also includes a short video. Joe calls lese majeste an obsolete law.* Below is an excerpt from the AP article:

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.

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.

“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.”

“Thailand needs to learn to handle the truth. Have a thicker skin to move forward,” he said.

He said his experience in Thailand has left him emotionally scarred.

“I’m very aware now that Thailand is not really the land of smiles, and you have to be careful what you are doing in this country,” Gordon said. “It seems like on the surface a nice country, but if you dig deeper it is dangerous and can harm you.

BP: Is the government listening to what Joe is saying?

*Another highlight from the BBC clip is the NIDA guy comparing lese majeste to anti-terrorism laws…