- (Photo: Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom)
A U.S. citizen was sentenced to 2.5 years in a Thailand jail for insulting the country’s monarchy.
Joe Gordon, 55, who was born in Thailand and now lives in Colorado, pleaded guilty to posting links on the Internet to a banned biography of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyade. The naturalized U.S. citizen also goes by the name Lerpong Wichaikhammat,
Gordon’s admission spared him the original 5-year sentence handed down, but still landed him more than two years behind bars.
The guilty plea was made in hopes of generating a pardon from the king, according to reports. The king has previously pardoned other foreign nationals under similar circumstances.
Gordon, 55, was arrested in May during a trip to Thailand, stemming from the Internet posting that happened back in 2007.
The recent ruling has sparked outrage from free-speech activists and government officials across the globe, who say that Thailand’s lese majeste law is used to silence dissent at an increasingly alarming rate.
“He was given the sentence for his right of expression,” U.S. Consul General in Thailand Elizabeth Pratt told reporters.
The links were posted on the Internet from the U.S., raising questions of the applicability of Thai law to acts committed in foreign countries, by foreign nationals.
“I am an American citizen, and what happened was in America,” Gordon said after the sentencing.
Nearly 500 people were charged under the law in 2010, a sharp increase from the roughly three dozen charged in 2005.
“The new government seems to be responding to questions about its loyalty to the monarchy by filing countless lese majeste charges,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
Recently a 61-year-old man was sentence to 20 years in jail for sending four text messages found to be offensive to the queen.
The spike in lese majeste cases has prompted harsh criticisms from groups like Human Rights Watch.
“The severity of penalties being meted out for lese majeste offenses in Thailand is shocking,” Adams said.