U.S. citizen Lerpong Wichaikhammat has begun a two-and-a-half-year jail term in Thailand for insulting the Thai monarchy in a blog post that linked to an banned biography of the king. Lerpong, who goes by his American name, Joe Gordon, plead guilty to translating The King Never Smiles, a book which criticizes the Thai King, into the Thai language on his blog--which the Thai government sees as the crime of lèse-majesté, or smearing the monarchy. News reports are a bit sketchy on the time frame of when Gordon's translation occurred--many opting to ballpark Gordon's alleged offense in the "several years ago" range. But Time does report that Gordon is a U.S. citizen and has been living in the U.S. for around 30 years, which confirms the Los Angeles Times' and Gordon's own claim that Gordon scribed the translation and linked to the book while living on American soil--years before being arrested when visiting Thailand this past May. Speaking after the verdict, Gordon said, "I am an American citizen, and what happened was in America ... This is just the system in Thailand." And for the most part he's right. Gordon's prison term follows an extensive efforts from the Thai government warning against and enforcing brutal sentences on Internet violations of lèse-majesté. Weeks ago, we wondered exactly how the Thai government would enforce this on foreigners who, like Gordon, live in countries with free speech. "If a foreigner abroad clicks 'share' or clicks 'like,' then the Thai law has no jurisdiction over that, but if there is a lawsuit filed and that person then comes into Thailand, then that person will be prosecuted," said Thailand's information minister at the time, the latter part of the that statement being not unlike what happened in Gordon's situation. The New York Times reports that Gordon is planning to eventually seek a royal pardon. Reports note that Elizabeth Pratt, the consul general of the U.S. Embassy said that the United States was “troubled” with the verdict. “We are very concerned about the severity of the sentence that has been imposed on Joe Gordon,” she said. “We continue to have full respect for the Thai monarchy, and we also want to support the right to freedom of expression, which is an internationally recognized human right.” Reports also note that she "stopped of calling for Mr. Gordon to be freed," which might be a nice way to say, "Pratt carefully chose her words as not to commit lèse-majesté."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.