The Associated Press is reporting that Colorado resident Joe Gordon, 54, (Thai-born name: Lerpong Wichaikhammat) has been arrested in Thailand on charges of defamation of the monarchy. Thai authorities claim Gordon linked to a banned book on his blog and that he also translated portions of the banned book into Thai. The unauthorized biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, "The King Never Smiles," was banned before publication; Thai authorities even blocked access to the Yale University Press website since they published the book.
Gordon has lived in Colorado for the past 30 years but recently returned to Thailand to receive medical treatment. Gordon has denied the charges against him but may face a prison term of 3-15 years for insulting the monarchy. As Gordon has lived in the United States in 2007 when the crimes were said to be committed (where his alleged actions are legal), the arrest brings up questions of international law and its application.
Thailand, a constitutional monarchy, nevertheless has strict lese majeste laws prohibiting criticism of the royal leaders. Just this week, the Bangkok Post reported that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) began a study into whether the severe lese majeste laws are constitutional. Thammasat University law associate professor Worachet Pakeerut, an activist for challenging lese majeste law, noted that
"If our society cannot talk about the monarchy at all, it will lead to a silence and more problems - eventually affecting the integrity of the institution."
Gordon is also accused of violating Thailand's 2007 Computer Crimes Act. This law is often paired with lese majeste regulations to censor internet defamation of the monarchy. In March, a man who ran an anti-government website was charged under the Computer Crimes Act and sentenced to 13 years in prison.