Sun, May 29, 2011 - Page 4 News List

US man accused of insulting king

AP, BANGKOK

Thai authorities said on Friday they arrested a US citizen on charges he insulted the country’s monarchy, in part by posting a link on his blog four years ago to a banned book about the Southeast Asian nation’s ailing king.

The man is also suspected of translating, from English into Thai, portions of The King Never Smiles — an unauthorized biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej — and posting them online along with articles he wrote that allegedly defame the royal family, said Tharit Pengdith, who heads the Department of Special Investigation, Thailand’s equivalent of the FBI.

The man has denied the charges, according to the Thai-language prachatai.com news Web site, which tracks cases of lese majeste, as the crime of insulting the monarchy is known.

The 54-year-old Thai-born man lived in the US state of Colorado for about 30 years before returning recently to Thailand for treatment for high blood pressure and gout, the Web site said.

If the allegations are true, the infractions would have been committed while he lived in the US — where they are legal — which has raised concern about the reach of Thai law and how it is applied to Thai nationals and foreign visitors.

Tharit said the man’s Thai name was Lerpong Wichaikhammat. Walter Braunohler, the US embassy spokesman in Bangkok, identified the man as Joe Gordon and said a consular officer visited him on Friday morning.

He declined comment further, saying only that officials were following the case “very closely.”

“We’re still looking into what the exact charges are,” Braunohler said.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, but has severe lese majeste laws that mandate a jail term of three to 15 years for any person who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir to the throne or the regent.”

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