News / Asia

Activists Say Thai-American's Arrest Part of Thailand Clampdown

Thai DSI Deputy Director General Yanaphon Youngyuen, June 03, 2011, Bangkok
Thai DSI Deputy Director General Yanaphon Youngyuen, June 03, 2011, Bangkok

Thai police say a Thai-American man arrested for allegedly insulting the monarchy online four years ago, will be prosecuted as a Thai national although he lived in the United States at the time. Rights activists say the charges against the man across cyberspace and time damages Thailand's image and will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

Thailand’s Department of Special Investigations Friday confirmed to VOA that Lerpong Wichaikhammat, 54, known in the United States as Joe Gordon, will be prosecuted as a Thai national despite also being an American citizen.

The DSI arrested Gordon in Thailand in late May and accused him of lese majeste, insulting the revered monarchy, an offense that is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Police say the charge was for, among other things, posting a link on a web log in 2007 to the book “The King Never Smiles,” which is banned in Thailand.

Initial reports said Gordon was living in the U.S. at the time, and that he moved to Thailand about a year ago, after 30 years away.

DSI Deputy Director General Yanaphon Youngyuen on Friday contradicted those reports, saying Gordon has lived in Thailand for three years, but refused to say if any alleged offenses were committed on Thai territory. He says it does not matter which country Gordon lived in.

He says the Internet comes into Thailand and can be seen because it is in cyberspace. He says cyberspace has no boundary or country but has an impact on Thailand’s national security. He says it is clearly defined in Thai law.

Yanaphon says Gordon confessed to his alleged crime on video tape but later recanted.

It is not clear why authorities arrested Gordon now, but rights activists say there has been increasing use of the lese majeste law to silence the opposition.

Benjamin Zawacki is Asia researcher for Amnesty International. He says the DSI is clearly reaching with the law and the arrest is another step in a clampdown that has chilled freedom of expression in Thailand.

"I mean if it can happen to someone with dual citizenship relating to an event that took place four years ago and which was perpetrated in the United States, no less, which is about as far from Thailand geographically as it gets, it does leave one wondering what could possibly be next and what speech is protected," he said.

Zawacki says if Gordon is convicted and imprisoned, he would be considered a political prisoner.

The DSI’s Yanaphon says Gordon posted messages on an anti-government website, NorPorChor USA, which supported massive street protests in Bangkok last year. Nonetheless, he says the arrest was not political.

In March NorPorChor USA’s developer Thanthawut Taweewarodomkul was sentenced to 13 years in prison for lese majeste and computer crimes.

David Streckfuss is a scholar studying Thai political culture and has written about lese majeste. He says before a 2006 coup there were just a few cases brought to court each year, but from 2006 to 2009 there were almost 400.

"These kinds of cases pose a deep threat to Thailand's image, and its previous image, of being a place where there was relative immediate freedom," Streckfuss said.

The 2006 coup ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. His opponents alleged he harbored anti-monarchy sentiments. He denies the charges.

Streckfuss says there has been at least one similar case to Gordon’s. He says a few years ago authorities told a Thai-American blogger his postings were offensive and he was warned not to return to Thailand or he would face arrest.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Bangkok says consular officers visit Gordon regularly and they are urging Thai authorities to respect freedom of expression.

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs