Thursday, July 2, 2009

Thailand: 8 foreign correspondents accused of lese majeste

The entire board of the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Thailand (FCCT) has been accused of lèse majesté ("injured majesty") -- the crime of causing injury to the majesty of the king. According to The Nation, a harsh critic of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin filed a complaint against the board Tuesday. The case? Apparently the club had approved the sale of a DVD that contained a controversial speech.*

Who is on the FCCT board?
The board, includes three British nationals including the BBC's Bangkok correspondent Jonathan Head, three American nationals, including two working for Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, an Australian national and a Thai news reader for Channel 3, Karuna Buakamsri.
Basically, saying or doing just about anything could get you charged with lèse majesté in Thailand. A young Thai man was charged with the crime because he didn't stand up in a movie theater. A British journalist faces lese majeste charges because of the position of a photograph on the BBC News website. An Australian writer spent months in jail for writing a paragraph in a novel that only a dozen people must have read. A renowned Thai scholar is now in self-imposed exile for having written a book critical of the rich. A Swiss drunkard got convicted of the crime for doodling on a poster. And the list goes on.**

At times the story reads like a
Monty Python script.

But for the accused and their families, Thais, and foreigners in Thailand, the law is no joke. You just have to cross a well-connected Thai person the wrong way and he or she can go to a police station demand that charges be filed. Unfortunately, the maximum penalty for lèse majesté is fifteen years in a filthy Thai jail cell.

Crazy stuff like this happens somewhere else, doesn't it? As I blogged in June, Thailand shares several things in common with Iran.

* "the board's decision to sell DVD copies of Jakrapob Penkair's controversial speech at the club back in 2007 constituted an act of lèse majesté." As Bangkok Pundit notes "a lese majeste complaint has already been filed against Jakrapob for what he said that night."

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