American sentenced for royal insult: 4 recent cases in Thailand

Thailand's lèse-majesté laws, which include prohibitions on posting anti-monarchy slurs online, are among the world's strictest, meriting jail terms of 3 to 15 years, and in some cases, more.

The rising number of lèse-majesté accusations comes as the reign of octogenarian King Bhumibol Adulyadej nears its end. Some worry that a crackdown could intensify as Thailand prepares for a transition.

While it's rare for foreigners to be prosecuted, they aren't exempt. Here are four high profile cases in the past decade, three of which involve foreigners:

1.The case of the online forum moderator

Chiranuch Premchaiporn, a Web manager, was accused of failing to quickly delete posts made by others on Prachatai, an online forum, in 2010.

She denied the charges and said that she cooperated with government requests to remove offensive postings.

She could face a 20-year prison sentence, but her trial has been delayed until February 2012.

Under Thailand’s cybercrime law, website administrators can be held liable for hosting illegal content, including material that undermines national security.

2.An Australian novelist

Australian Harry Nicolaides wrote a novel that he said he hoped would strip away "the veneer of truth" from Thailand, where he was teaching at the time, as the Monitor reported.

A brief passage in his novel was about the private life of an unnamed crown prince, so in 2005, he sent advance copies to the palace and two government ministries, seeking their approval.

After receiving no reply, he began to sell the book in Thailand. Only 50 copies were self-published and few were sold.  But a couple of years later, it was pulled from stores on the orders of the Ministry of Justice. 

Mr. Nicolaides was arrested in 2008 on charges of lèse-majesté and ultimately sentenced to three years in prison. After serving six months, he was pardoned in February 2009.

3.The case of the Swiss national

In March 2007, Oliver Jufer, a Swiss national, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for defacing portraits of the king and queen.  Mr. Jufer pleaded guilty to spray-painting graffiti over the images while intoxicated near his home in Chiang Mai. He was swiftly pardoned and deported. His was the first such conviction of a foreigner in a decade or more. He is believed to be one of the first foreigners imprisoned for the offense.  Others had been charged, but later expelled rather than jailed. 

4.The case of Joe Gordon

US citizen Joe Gordon was arrested in May 2011 and charged with lèse-majesté on Aug. 18.  He is accused of posting a link on his blog in the US to a banned book about the king. He pleaded guilty, was sentenced today (December 8)  to 2-1/2 years, and is hoping for a pardon.