The short report at CNN is worth reading, not so much for the content, but for the short video that reminds us of the Joe Gordon’s incarceration and his sentencing.
From the report itself, the media is tending to report rather than comment, and yet there are issues that deserve discussion. Not least, the repeated statement that Joe received “a royal pardon from the king” while factually correct demands dissection.
Why is it that Joe and all other lese majeste victims have to appeal for a royal pardon? In fact, one reason is that this law is enforced by judges who hold all prisoners guilty from the beginning. This charge has a conviction rate of over 94%. Another reason is that those accused are pressured to plead guilty. The threat of years and years in a stinking jail, usually with no bail, means that a “royal pardon” is held up as an opportunity to end torment.
A third reason is that “granting” pardons makes the king look good. By granting an appeal he appears benevolent. In fact, the victims of this political crime that “protects” this fabulously wealthy and politically interventionist king who now divides Thailand, are only in jail because the monarchy is a significant element of the system that protects the privileges of a grasping royalist elite.
The CNN report also notes that:
Gordon’s case is one of several that provoked criticism from human rights advocates over Thailand’s controversial laws that punish defaming, insulting or threatening the royal family. U.S. authorities had also expressed concern about his imprisonment.
This is only partly true. So-called human rights advocates like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have been altogether too timid and even politically compromised in their attention to lese majeste.They should have been far more vocal. As for the U.S. authorities, they made one intervention in public on Joe’s case. On lese majeste generally, they have been essentially silent and compromised.
Like almost all other reports in the media, the CNN report has Joe guilty of “posting a link on his blog to an unauthorized biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej…”. This isn’t correct. Joe pleaded guilty under duress. We have no idea whether he did what he’s accused of. Even if he did, it wasn’t an illegal act in the United States.
Joe’s lawyer is reported as saying: “The case is over, he has no more pending court case or obligatory things to do…”. We hope that this is not the end of Joe’s case. We would like to see him write extensively of his experience, tell us who helped him and who didn’t, and in support of other victims.