Thai court sentences American citizen to 2.5 years in prison for insulting monarchy (VIDEO)
American Joe Gordon, who translated a banned biography of Thailand’s king and posted it online while living in Colorado, was sentenced to 2-1/2 years in a Thai prison.
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Jailed for sending a text message
Gordon's sentence comes soon after 61-year-old grandfather Ampon Tangnoppakul was sentenced to 20 years jail over four "sms" texts deemed to be offensive to Thailand's Queen Sirikit.Skip to next paragraph
A public demonstration seeking Mr. Ampon's release is planned for central Bangkok on Dec. 10, and the sentence has raised eyebrows even among people who support the monarchy and the law as it is.
Ampon's wife, Rossamarin, told this correspondent that “my husband and lawyer have not yet decided to appeal or not.” Gordon will not appeal his much shorter sentence, but hopes for a pardon from Thailand's king, who has himself previously said that he is not above criticism.
"Our society needs to have a real constructive debate about the law, as otherwise you can have a situation where people can be jailed without fair trials. The king himself has said it is not healthy for society for people to be prosecuting each other," says Surat Horachaikul, a professor at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.
Still, Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi insisted that free speech in Thailand is not abating: “We abide by the principle of freedom of expression.” But he added, “people living in Thailand and coming to Thailand must abide by Thai law."
The current government counts people opposed to or seeking reform of the lèse-majesté law among its supporters, and is headed by Yingluck Shinawatra, the younger sister of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in the 2006 coup after fierce opposition from Thai royalists.
However, the government has promised intensified prosecution of the laws, setting up a cyber "war room" to monitor online postings and warning people that they should not share or even "like" Facebook comments that possibly insult the monarchy.
According to Professor Surat, who participated in anti-Thaksin royalist protests in the past, "lèse-majesté is a very sensitive issue in Thailand. On the one hand you have people who want to abolish the law, on the other, you have people who want to keep it and use it more, and then there are others who want to reform the law."
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