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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    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.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora