Thai-born US citizen sentenced to jail for lese majeste

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BANGKOK, Dec 8 – A Thai-born American was sentenced by a Bangkok court Thursday to two and a half years imprisonment for lese majeste.

His jail term was not suspended.

The Criminal Court sentenced Joe Wichai Commart Gordon, also known as Lerpong, to five years in prison, but halved the term as the car salesman from Colorado pled guilty to publishing online an unauthorised biography of the Thai monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, that he translated into Thai.

He was found guilty of Thailand’s lese majeste law and illegal computer acts.

Mr Gordon also posted a link on his blog to the banned book “The King Never Smiles” by Paul Handley.

The 55-year-old Thai-born American, using the pen name of Sin Sae Jew, claimed to be translator of the banned book and confessed during his trial that he posted the Thai translation on a website from Nov 2, 2007 to May 24, 2008.

Mr Gordon has lived in the US for 30 years. He was detained in late May while visiting Thailand for medical treatment. After his bail requests were repeatedly rejected, he pled guilty in October in hopes of obtaining a lighter jail term.

The Thai-American’s lawyer told reporters that his client decided not to appeal but would later seek a royal pardon.

The US has expressed concern over the use of Thailand’s lese-majeste law.

Last month a 61-year-old man was jailed for 20 years for sending four text messages that were deemed offensive to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.

US State Department spokeswoman Darragh Paradiso was quoted by French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Dec 6 as saying that the United States government has the utmost respect for the Thai monarchy, but strongly supports freedom of expression around the world and considers it a fundamental human right.

“We urge Thai authorities to ensure that freedom of expression is respected,” the spokeswoman said.

“We’re troubled by recent prosecutions and court decisions that are not consistent with international standards on freedom of expression,” she was quoted as saying.