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

Hostage Crisis Could Divide Japan Over Plans to Boost Military

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday the government is working closely with the Jordanian government to secure the release of remaining Japanese hostage Kenji Goto More

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Country's youngest ever PM Alexis Tsipras, 40, sworn in Monday and says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts More

Multimedia National Geographic Photo Camps Empower Youth

Annual mentoring program's mission is to give young people a voice to tell their own stories through photography 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid