American Citizen in Thailand Sentenced for Defaming the King of Thailand

American Citizen in Thailand Sentenced for Defaming the King of Thailand

The decision is controversial outside of Thailand.

Thais love the King. In Thailand, it is illegal to defame the Monarch in any way, which is why an American citizen was sentenced to two and a half years in a Thai prison for defaming the King. 


How did the man defame the King of Thailand?


Joe Gordon translated an unauthorized biography about the Thai King and published it on the net. That doesn’t mean that Gordon is surprised by the judgment. He observed that the laws of the land in Thailand are different than they are here and that there is much less burden of proof for the prosecution in criminal cases. As Gordon put it, “In Thailand, they put people in prison even if they don’t have proof.”

On the surface, it seems odd that Gordon would be imprisoned for something that he did while living in Colorado several years ago. To American citizens, the idea of either a monarchy or a lack of free speech is a foreign concept. However, since Gordon is a native to Thailand, he should have known how his actions would be seen in the country of his birth; the King is not only deeply revered throughout Thailand, he and his family have done much for the poor in Thailand to show their love for the Thai people. 


That said, Gordon probably could not have predicted that he would be placed under arrest when returning to Thailand for medical treatment. 



The decision to sentence Gordon is controversial because Gordon’s actions took place in the United States. Should foreign nations be able to prosecute American citizens for crimes which were committed on American soil if the crimes are not illegal in the United States? What about imprisoning someone for actions taken that were protected by the United States constitution’s first amendment?


Gordon is planning on appealing his decision to the King of Thailand. His sentence, originally five years, has already been reduced since he plead guilty to the crime in October.

This is not the first example of harsh sentencing for ill-speech about the King of Thailand. And if new regulations are put in place regarding clicking “the like button” on anything deemed offensive to the King, there are likely to be more examples of harsh sentences.