Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Oliver Jufer faces 75 Years in Jail for Defacing the Thai King's Picture

Yes, someone has defaced the image of the King of Siam, but it wasn't Oliver.

Thailand has put a Swiss man on trial for defacing portraits of King Bhumibol. Mr. Oliver Jufer could face 75 years in prison if convicted. Apparently he was angry that no one would sell him alcohol on the king's birthday.

Does Thailand's lèse-majesté law apply to foreign nationals? It is my understanding that in the past Thailand has given reassurances to foreign nations that it does not. Regardless, lèse-majesté is a reprehensible law. It a disgrace to the Thai nation, and it is an insult to the dignity of a people who pride themselves on their freedom. In fact, by enforcing lèse-majesté law, and by prosecuting Oliver Jufer in particular, the government of Thailand has displayed the Thai monarchy before the world in a most unflattering light. This is something this Swiss man could not have possibly accomplished of his own accord.

Freedom of speech is a basic human right in a free society. It is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Thailand is a founding signatory. Only recently, Thailand's lèse-majesté law has been cited by powerful figures as an excuse to stifle political freedom, justify a coup d'etat, suspend the constitution, and imprison opponents of military rule. Shame on governments of Thailand past and present for continuing to associate the glorious Thai monarchy with this inhumane and barbaric law! Let there be no mistake: it is not Mr. Oliver Jufer's crayon, but the law under which he is being tried that stains the revered image of the King of Thailand.

More on the international news media reaction to this case -- and the Thai media's refusal to cover the story -- at New Mandala and Thailand Jumped the Shark. For more details on Oliver Jufer's plight read the The Telegraph article.

Update 3/29/07: Oliver Jufer was sentenced today to 10 years in prison.

Further Update: HM the King has commuted Oliver's sentence. Horay!

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