Monthly Archives: December 2011

See you in 2012

2011 12 24 gone fishin cake

I won’t be posting anything here until the week of Jan. 9.

You might catch me on Twitter before then, though.

If you’re looking for something to read, check out the recent stories I link to from my Journalism page.

Or click over to the Popular Posts page for evergreen Newley.com posts.

I hope you have an excellent holiday season. Thanks, as ever, for reading.

(Image via.)

NYT on Thailand and Lèse-Majesté

More on the issue of Thailand’s lèse-majesté laws, which I mentioned in my last two posts: The New York Times has a story today summing up the situation:

At the entrance to a neighborhood in Bangkok’s garment district, residents have posted an unambiguous message on an archway decorated with an image of Thailand’s king.

“If you live in Thailand, you must be loyal,” reads a sign prominently suspended over the road. “If you are not loyal, you are not Thai.”

Thailand has always stood out for the deference that many Thais openly show toward their monarch. But in the twilight of the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 84, now weakened and living in a specially outfitted suite in a Bangkok hospital, dedicated loyalists are leading a feverish, with-us-or-against-us campaign to defend him. At the same time, the government has intensified a crackdown on criticism of the monarchy, prosecuting a record number of people charged with royal insults.

Passions over the monarchy have escalated to the point where some Thais say they fear the situation could turn violent.

“We have reached a stage where people would want to drive you out of the country or even want to kill you for having different thoughts,” said Anon Numpa, a lawyer who represents a dozen clients accused of royal insults.

The royalists say they feel under attack, most recently from outside the country. On the Internet, thousands of Thais have posted angry comments on the U.S. Embassy’s Facebook page since a Thai-born U.S. citizen was convicted of insulting the king.

Worth a read.

(All emphasis mine.)

Yesterday’s Royalist Protest at U.S. Embassy

To follow up on my post regarding recent discussion of Thailand’s lèse-majesté laws, I wanted to share this Bloomberg story from yesterday:

Hundreds of Thai royalists called for U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney to “get out” of the country after a State Department official questioned the conviction of an American for insulting King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Siam Samakkhi, which means United Siam, submitted letters to the UN and U.S. today urging them to avoid commenting on the lese-majeste law, group member Tul Sitthisomwong said. About 200 members of the organization, waving royal flags and holding pictures of King Bhumibol, shouted “Kristie get out!” in front of the embassy in Bangkok today.

Worth a read.

Elsewhere, VOA has a story and some photos.

And there’s more from the Bangkok Post.

Thailand’s Lèse-Majesté Laws: Very Much in the News

Just a quick note to point out that Thailand’s lèse-majesté laws, which make it illegal to insult the royal family, are very much in the news these days.

Here’s a cell phone photo of today’s Bangkok Post front page:

Photo 4

The main story seen above — “Royalists step into lese majeste row” — says:

The controversy over Article 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law, is heating up with royalist group Siam Samakkhi (United Siam) deploring the UN, the US and the European Union for “attempting to interfere” in the country’s judicial system.

The group said the critics lacked understanding of the constitutional monarchy after they called for reforms of the lese majeste law.

The international community appears troubled by recent court rulings in two lese majeste cases. It says they are inconsistent with international standards of freedom of expression.

Siam Samakkhi said criticism of the lese majeste law is based on partial information and a lack of understanding about the consequences of violating the lese majeste law.

And today’s Nation reports:

The US Embassy in Bangkok got a taste of sorts of the “freedom of expression” medicine after Thai political rivals faced off with plenty of obscenities on its Facebook page over the past few days.

With some comments disappearing from the Facebook page yesterday, questions were asked if the embassy really adheres to the democratic principles it preaches. In a reply to a Twitter user, American Ambassador Kristie Kenny said, “As you know, we welcome a vibrant exchange of views. Just ask that it be kept civilised and respectful of all involved”.

A U.S. Embassy statement today notes:

This message is to alert you that on Friday, December 16th, a large group—possibly as many as 1200 people—will gather in front of the U.S. Embassy on Wireless Road. The exact time of the demonstration is unknown, but most of the demonstrators are expected to arrive between 1300 and 1600 hours.

(All emphasis mine.)

More soon on the topic of lèse-majesté, I’m sure. But I wanted to share these links for now.

U.S. Citizen Gets Two-and-a-Half Year Jail Sentence for Insulting Thai King

The AP reports:

An American who translated a banned biography of Thailand’s king and posted the content online while living in Colorado was sentenced to two and a half years in a Thai prison Thursday for defaming the country’s royal family.

The verdict is the latest so-called lese majeste punishment handed down in the Southeast Asian kingdom, which has come under increasing pressure at home and abroad to reform harsh legislation that critics say is an affront to freedom of expression.

The 55-year-old Thai-born American, Joe Gordon, stood calmly with his ankles shackled in an orange prison uniform as the sentence was read out at a Bangkok criminal court.

The New York Times says:

A Thai court on Thursday sentenced a U.S. citizen to two and a half years in prison for insulting King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the latest case in the government’s crackdown on criticism of the monarchy.

Joe Gordon, who was born in Thailand but has lived in the United States for the past three decades, was convicted of translating and posting to the Internet portions of a book, “The King Never Smiles,” which is published by Yale University Press and banned in Thailand.

The BBC has a short video and a text story:

Thailand has jailed a US citizen for two and a half years after he admitted posting web links to a banned biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Joe Gordon, a used car salesman from Colorado who was born in Thailand, admitted lese-majeste, or insulting the king, at an earlier hearing.

Off topic: Did You Say You’d Like to See an Advertisement Featuring Life-Sized Cutouts of Manchester United Players Hawking Malaysian Mister Potato Brand Potato Chips?

Well, then, today’s your lucky day:

2011 12 07 man u mr potato

Spotted this afternoon at Bangkok’s Chidlom BTS Sky Train stop. Thanks to A for the tip.

Yes, that’s the Red Devils’ Park Ji-Sung holding a can of Mister Potato brand chips, flanked by a wai-ing Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney. (More details on the promotion, in case you’re curious, are here.)

Considering my enduring love for both soccer and snack foods, I simply couldn’t resist snapping a photo of this ad.

Regular programming will resume shortly.

Self promotion: New WSJ Southeast Asia Real Time Story on Thailand Tourism and the Floods

I have a new story today at the WSJ‘s Southeast Asia Real Time blog. It’s called “Despite Floods, Thailand Poised for Tourism Record,” and begins:

Thailand’s vital tourism industry has suffered terribly from the massive floods that continue to drain slowly from Bangkok’s suburbs. Remarkably, however, the country is poised to set a record for the most yearly international arrivals, underscoring the tourism sector’s resilience despite a string of recent crises.

Give it a read.

Thai King Speaks on 84th Birthday

The AP says:

Thailand’s king called for his countrymen to unite in response to the worst floods in half a century. The revered monarch spoke on Monday to mark his 84th birthday and amid deep political divisions plaguing the country.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej spoke at the ceremonial Grand Palace for about five minutes after being driven from a nearby hospital where he has been staying for more than two years. Cheering well-wishers lined the route, waving flags and chanting “Long live the king.”

The Bangkok Post has more.