British journalist says he “would have been offended” if Thai police hadn’t banned his book ‘A Kingdom in Crisis’
Formers Reuters correspondent, Andrew MacGregor Marshall, now a freelance journalist and analyst on Thai culture and politics, has expressed his “delight” that his book, ‘A Kingdom in Crisis’, has been banned by the Thai police. The book, which Marshall says was partly based on information from classified US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, as well as contacts from within the royal establishment, was already an Amazon ‘bestseller’ in the Asian History section.
National Police Chief Somyot Poompanmoung said in a statement that the book – which was written as a genesis of the Thai political crisis leading up to the military coup – “insults, defames and threatens Thailand’s monarchy. The book is a danger to national security and a peaceful and orderly society.” It’s reported that Somyot banned the book after reading reviews in the South China Morning Post on Oct. 4, and The Independent on Oct. 8.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand’s 86-year-old monarch is protected by strict defamation laws. Anyone found owning or reading the book in Thailand faces a maximum jail term of three years or a maximum fine of 60,000 baht ($1,824), or both. Marshall himself, unofficially persona non grata in Thailand, could be jailed for up to 15 years in jail for “insulting the king, queen, heir or regent.”
“I am fundamentally opposed to the banning of books, and I don’t see how Thailand can hope to solve its problems peacefully unless Thais are allowed to openly discuss and debate all aspects of their politics and history,” said Marshall in an interview. “Censorship and suppression can only make the crisis worse, and increase the risk that there will be more violence. However, I’m personally delighted that the Thai police have banned my book. I would have been very offended if they hadn’t. My book is intended to challenge the myths and fairy tales of the Thai elite, and the ban shows I did my job properly.”
Marshall was recently at the Frontline Club in London at a panel event discussing the Thai political crisis and his book. Incidentally, a day earlier Thai people had gathered at the Premier of Mockingjay in London, protesting what they called District Thai, and the oppressive regime of the junta. Marshall’s opening words reflected this alleged oppression, “In my view the biggest problem is that it’s illegal to talk about what’s happening, and any sensible discussion of Thai politics or history is criminalized.” Discussion, he adds, is always better than conflict. Suppression of free speech, he says, “is a disaster for Thailand.”