Joe Gordon

Joe Gordon, also known by his Thai name Lerpong Wichaikhammat, is a 54 year-old Thai-born, American citizen charged with lese majeste.

He was arrested on 26 May 2011 by the Department of Special Investigation on lese majeste, security and related computer crimes infringements. His computer and mobile phone were seized. His arrest was masterminded by DSI who apparently needed a team of 20 to take the man into custody as he reclined at home in Nakorn Ratchasima. He was then transported to Bangkok for further interrogation by DSI.

Joe is reported to have lived in the US state of Colorado for many years. He returned to Thailand about a year ago for treatment of high blood pressure and gout.

DSI say he is the owner of a blog that was established 4 years ago (i.e. when he did not reside in Thailand) with links that allowed downloading of Paul Handley’s The King Never Smiles, a book that is banned but very widely available in Thailand in English and Thai. He is also alleged to have translated some articles or a part of Handley’s book.

Despite friends presenting 1.7 million baht, the court refused bail as it was opposed by DSI and because it was a serious case related to national security. He remains in jail not least because he has denied the charges. The DSI considers that he is Nai Sin Sae Jiew (นาย สิน แซ่ จิ้ว), the owner of a blog, which was created in the USA in 2007.

The US Embassy has confirmed that he is an American citizen and that it was providing consular assistance while he languishes in the Bangkok Remand Prison.

During his stay in Korat, Joe says he taught English to children.  He said that the authorities had sent a young man to study with him as a spy.  They, however, never discussed politics.

Joe has made numerous appeals for bail following his arrest but none were granted. In the end, Joe was refused bail at least 8 times. (In Prachatai, it is reported that there were 10 bail applications).

After a long delay, in its 19 August 2011 report, AP stated that “U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Kristin Kneedler said the U.S. has urged Thai authorities to respect freedom of expression and ‘was disappointed’ with the charges against Gordon.” The previous day, following the full detention period allowed under the law, Joe was officially charged with lese majeste.

This may represent the first second known case of a foreign citizen being charged with lese majeste for alleged offenses committed outside Thailand. The first case seems to be Anthony Chai.

On 7 October 2011, frustrated by the continual refusal of bail and facing the prospect of a long and drawn out trial and then a longer period in jail, Joe decided to plead guilty. It is clear that he has been pressured to make this plea.

PPT considers the use of extended incarceration for lese majeste victims in order to force guilty pleas is a form of torture, as defined by the U.N.:

… any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

PPT reads this statement as a reflection to the way that Thailand’s legal authorities pressure lese majeste victims and subject them to mental suffering in order to obtain a confession. This is cause for foreign governments, including that of the U.S. to condemn the forcible extraction of confessions from lese majeste victims.

On 8 December 2011, following the guilty plea, Joe’s sentence was issued. He received a two and a half year prison sentence, reduced from five for the guilty plea. Two and a half years for admitting to translating parts of a book published by the prestigious Yale University Press. When he is alleged to have done this he was engaging in legal activity in the United States.

Joe reportedly stood calmly with his ankles shackled in an orange prison uniform as the sentence was read out. He later said “I am an American citizen, and what happened was in America.” He added that “he had no expectation of being let off easy,” stating: “This is just the system in Thailand…. In Thailand, they put people in prison even if they don’t have proof.”

Joe hoped for royal pardon that apparently makes the royals involved look somehow magnanimous when they grant it. However, it isn’t coming as the prosecution repeatedly extends its preparation of an appeal against Joe’s “light sentence.” Until the appeal is dropped or completed, Joe cannot hope for a pardon and deportation.

On 8 May 2012 it was reported that a petition for pardon had been sent to the Royal Household Bureau.

On 10 July 2012 Joe was pardoned.

Joe finally left Thailand on 8 November 2012. This is his departure interview with the BBC:

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Media reports on Joe’s case:

Red Shirts blog, 2 December 2012: “The Remarkable 112 Community

AP, 8 November 2012: “AP Interview: American jailed for insulting Thailand’s king says law holds country back

PPT posted a list of stories related to Joe’s pardon here.

msnbc.com, 8 May 2012: “American jailed in Thailand for insulting monarchy to be released?

Prachatai, 6 March 2012: “Surachai will ask PM to seek royal pardon for political prisoners

Prachatai, 24 February 2012: “Appeals Court denies bail for Amphon

We have a large set of links to stories on Joe’s sentencing here.

AP, 7 December 2011: “American sentenced to prison for Thai royal insult

Prachatai, 12 November 2011: “Joe Gordon awaits court verdict

Huffington Post, 31 October 2011: “This Can Get Mark Zuckerberg Arrested

The Post and Courier, 12 October 2011: “Free U.S. citizen Joe Gordon

Prachatai, 11 October 2011: “Joe Gordon pleads guilty

The Telegraph, 10 October 2011: “US man pleads guilty to insulting Thai royals

Fox News, 10 October 2011: “U.S. Man Faces 15 Years in Prison for Defaming Thailand’s Royal Family

Prachatai, 28 September 2011: “Activists urge the US to help Joe Gordon

Prachatai, 7 September 2011: “Fear of Flying: Joe Gordon Denied Bail an Eighth Time

Mediashift, 1 September 2011: “Online Comments Run Afoul of Thailand’s Laws Shielding Royalty from Criticism

Prachatai,26 August 2011: “‘Disappointment’ from the United States is not enough

AP, 19 August 2011: “US disappointed with Thai charges against American

AP, 18 August 2011: “Joe Gordon, American Citizen, Charged With Insulting Thai Monarchy

Prachatai, 11 August 2011: “Bail Granted, Bail Denied

Prachatai, 21 July 2011: “There is no justice in Thailand

Prachatai, 14 June 2011: “Court denies bail for Joe Gordon

Prachatai, 9 June 2011: “Imprisoned U.S./Thai Citizen Joe Gordon Denied Access to Adequate Medical Treatment, Enters Thailand as U.S. Citizen

Asian Human Rights Commission, 3 June 2011: “THAILAND: Criminalization of free speech ahead of election”

Prachatai, 28 May 2011: “Family of arrested Thai-American citizen believes he is innocent

Prachatai, 28 May 2011: “Thai-US citizen arrested over link to banned book

Prachatai, 27 May 2011: “A Thai with American citizenship arrested for lèse majesté and denied bail

All of the following are from 26 and 27 May 2011:

New York Times, American Arrested for Insulting Thai King

Washington Post, American citizen charged with insulting Thai king: What is lèse-majesté?

Newsday, Thailand arrests American for alleged king insult

Voice of America, American Faces More Than 15 Year Sentence in Thailand for Insulting Monarchy

TIME, Thailand Arrests US Man for Alleged King Insult

Reuters, US citizen charged with Thai royal insult

BBC News, US citizen held for Thai ‘insult’

AFP, Thailand charges US citizen with insulting royals

Gawker, Blog Link Could Land Old Man in Thai Jail

Examiner, Coloradan jailed in Thailand for insulting king

KMPH Fox, Thailand arrests Colorado man for allegedly insulting the king with 2007 link

NBC Connecticut, Thailand Arrests American Accused of Insulting King

WTMA‎, Thailand Arrests American for Insulting the King

The Irrawaddy, Thailand’s Lèse Majesté Laws under Scrutiny

Forbes, Thailand arrests American for alleged king insult

Malaysia Star, Thailand arrests American for alleged king insult

Jakarta Post, Thailand arrests American for alleged king insult

Corvallis Gazette Times, Thailand arrests American for alleged king insult

54 responses

20 07 2011
Joe Gordon’s detention continues | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] most countries, Joe Gordon wouldn’t be in prison. But in Thailand, he’s accused of the political crime of lese […]

19 08 2011
Joe Gordon charged with lese majeste and U.S. expresses concern | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] last the U.S. Embassy has made an official statement expressing concern for Joe Gordon, incarcerated since he was arrested on 26 May 2011 by the Department of Special Investigation on […]

28 08 2011
The Bangkok Post on lese majeste | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] the Post turns to the sad case of Joe Gordon. remarkably, the Bangkok Post considers Joe guilty even before he has gone to trial. It states that […]

2 09 2011
Mediashift looks at lese majeste | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] looks at lese majeste with the California link to Anthony Chai’s case and U.S. citizen Joe Gordon’s prosecution. Many PPT readers will know the details of the story, that summarizes laws and events for U.S. […]

3 09 2011
Wikileaks: U.S. Ambassador Boyce offers lese majeste advice | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] current line taken by the Embassy and State Department in dealing with the truly testing case of Joe Gordon, charged with offenses allegedly committed on U.S. soil. […]

30 09 2011
Activists rally for Joe Gordon | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] have rallied at the U.S. Embassy in support of lese majeste victim Joe Gordon. An excellent account is available at Prachatai, with pictures. A must […]

7 10 2011
Joe Gordon’s bail request refused again | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Jeamteerasakul posts a comment at New Mandala which states that lese majeste victim Joe Gordon has had yet another bail application […]

10 10 2011
Joe Gordon forced to plead guilty | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] is the case for U.S. citizen Joe Gordon, who has been jailed in Thailand for allegedly insulting the monarchy since late May 2011 and has […]

10 10 2011
American faces 15 years in prison for blog post insulting Thai king | states

[…] who returned to Thailand final year after vital forArticle source: […]

15 10 2011
31 10 2011
Mark Zuckerberg faces 15 brutal years in a Thai prison « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] article mentions the cases of Chiranuch Premchaiporn and Joe Gordon and on the latter asks: “What if Mark Zuckerberg was to intervene on his […]

7 01 2012
US ambassador loves the king « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] continue to demonstrate the embassy’s flawed position on lese majeste victim and U.S. citizen Joe Gordon. Joe is in prison for a crime in Thailand that was allegedly committed in Colorado, a state in the […]

24 02 2012
Keeping them locked up « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] bail and treating them as worse than murderers. An excellent example is the ongoing case of Joe Gordon. Readers will recall that Joe finally agreed to plead guilty when it became clear that he would […]

24 02 2012
Keeping them locked up « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] bail and treating them as worse than murderers. An excellent example is the ongoing case of Joe Gordon. Readers will recall that Joe finally agreed to plead guilty when it became clear that he would […]

28 02 2012
Lèse majesté: Throwing away they key-PPT « FACT – Freedom Against Censorship Thailand

[…] bail and treating them as worse than murderers. An excellent example is the ongoing case of Joe Gordon. Readers will recall that Joe finally agreed to plead guilty when it became clear that he would […]

6 03 2012
Free the political prisoners! « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] majesté convicts and defendants including Surachai himself. The others are Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Joe Gordon, Sathian Rattanawong, Wanchai Saetan, Nat Sattayapornpisut, Suchart Nakbangsai and Darunee […]

7 03 2012
Free the political prisoners! « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] majesté convicts and defendants including Surachai himself. The others are Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Joe Gordon, Sathian Rattanawong, Wanchai Saetan, Nat Sattayapornpisut, Suchart Nakbangsai and Darunee […]

20 03 2012
Lese majeste on the international agenda « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] interesting is the profile provided to American citizen Joe Gordon, said to be a “high-profile case involving vexing jurisdictional issues…”. […]

20 03 2012
Lese majeste on the international agenda « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] interesting is the profile provided to American citizen Joe Gordon, said to be a “high-profile case involving vexing jurisdictional issues…”. That’s kind of […]

21 03 2012
The long arm of lese majeste zealotry « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] as we also know from Joe Gordon‘s case and that of Anthony Chai, the long arm of the lese majesty enforcers extends beyond […]

21 03 2012
The long arm of lese majeste zealotry « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] as we also know from Joe Gordon‘s case and that of Anthony Chai, the long arm of the lese majesty enforcers extends beyond […]

23 03 2012
Free them! « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] pardon are: Surachai Danwatthananusorn (serving 7.5 years in prison), Suchart Nakbangsai (3 years), Joe Gordon (2 .5 years), Suriyan Kokpuey (3 years and 15 days), Nat Sattayapornpisut (4.5 years), Sathian […]

23 03 2012
Free them! « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] pardon are: Surachai Danwatthananusorn (serving 7.5 years in prison), Suchart Nakbangsai (3 years), Joe Gordon (2 .5 years), Suriyan Kokpuey (3 years and 15 days), Nat Sattayapornpisut (4.5 years), Sathian […]

21 04 2012
Thailand Awaits Pivotal Verdict on Liability for Internet Intermediaries | ChrisInMaryville's Blog

[…] by eight other prominent lèse majesté convicts and defendants including Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Joe Gordon, Sathian Rattanawong, Wanchai Saetan, Nat Sattayapornpisut, Suchart Nakbangsai and Darunee […]

1 05 2012
Joe Gordon and the United States « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Joe Gordon is not forgotten. […]

1 05 2012
The betrayal of Joe Gordon « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] Joe Gordon is not forgotten. […]

5 05 2012
Journalists everywhere waiting for Chiranuch’s verdict-EFF « FACT – Freedom Against Censorship Thailand

[…] by eight other prominent lèse majesté convicts and defendants including Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Joe Gordon, Sathian Rattanawong, Wanchai Saetan, Nat Sattayapornpisut, Suchart Nakbangsai and Darunee […]

5 05 2012
Joe Gordon still in prison-PPT « FACT – Freedom Against Censorship Thailand

[…] Joe Gordon is not forgotten. […]

9 05 2012
Other lese majeste news « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] first relates to Joe Gordon. At msnbc.com, there is a story that U.S. citizen Joe is being considered for royal pardon, with […]

10 05 2012
Other lese majeste news « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] first relates to Joe Gordon. At msnbc.com, there is a story that U.S. citizen Joe is being considered for royal pardon, with […]

14 05 2012
14 05 2012
Darunee is not forgotten « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] weeks ago, PPT posted that Joe Gordon is not forgotten. Today we affirm that Darunee Charnchoensilpakul is not forgotten. A Matichon […]

24 05 2012
25 05 2012
Updated: No political prisoners in Thailand? « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] their sources of information. Why not ask Somyos Pruksakasemsuk, Darunee Charnchoengsilpakul, or Joe Gordon if there are political prisoners in Thailand? If they read this site or Prachatai, they would have […]

25 05 2012
US govt report says no political prisoners in Thailand!-PPT « FACT – Freedom Against Censorship Thailand

[…] their sources of information. Why not ask Somyos Pruksakasemsuk, Darunee Charnchoengsilpakul, or Joe Gordon if there are political prisoners in Thailand? If they read this site or Prachatai, they would have […]

20 06 2012
Amnesty International at Chiang Mai University on the Middle East and Freedom of Expression | วากา-ชิ ชุมชนออนไลน์ 24 ชั่วโมง

[…] or any prisoner charged for expressing their views, for example Prachathai editor, SMS Uncle, or Joe Gordon needed to be […]

29 06 2012
Taking on monarchist claptrap « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] proceedings in such cases, including those of Mr. Lerpong Wichaikhammart (Joe Gordon) and the late Mr. Amphon Tangnoppagul (Akong), were carried out in accordance with the rule of law. […]

29 06 2012
3 07 2012
Taking on monarchist claptrap-PPT « FACT – Freedom Against Censorship Thailand

[…] proceedings in such cases, including those of Mr. Lerpong Wichaikhammart (Joe Gordon) and the late Mr. Amphon Tangnoppagul(Akong), were carried out in accordance with the rule of law. […]

21 08 2012
21 08 2012
Trivialities and Thailand « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] 15] for defaming, insulting or threatening the king. Among those who have run afoul of the law is Joe Gordon, a Thai-born American sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for [PPT: allegedly] translating a banned […]

10 09 2012
A lese majeste update « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Joe Gordon […]

10 09 2012
A lese majeste update « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] article begins by noting that Joe Gordon, Ampol Tangnopakul and Darunee Charnchoensilpakul were each sentenced in late 2011. For those who […]

18 09 2012
18 09 2012
Lese majeste and elite (in)justice « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] Tangnopakul,  and Wanchai Saetan have suffered similar refusals of bail. She could have added Joe Gordon, Surachai Danwattananusorn and several others to the […]

8 11 2012
8 11 2012
Joe Gordon on lese majeste « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] citizen Joe Gordon was arrested on 26 May 2011 by the Department of Special Investigation on lese majeste, security […]

4 12 2012
Anti-112 allies « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Joe Gordon […]

4 12 2012
Anti-112 allies « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] mentions the continuing problems that lese majeste victims face following their release. It cites Joe Gordon, who left Thailand following his release, saying “I am sad to leave Thailand, but I don’t feel […]

5 12 2012
5 12 2012
Lese majeste not forgotten « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] while incarcerated), Boonyuen Prasertying, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Darunee Charnchoensilpakul, Joe Gordon, Harry Nicolaides, Nat Sattayapornpisut, Papatchanan Ching-in, Sathian Rattanawong, Suchart […]

20 12 2012
Shackling and fettering « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Joe Gordon […]

26 01 2013
26 01 2013
Lese majeste hits the popular social media « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] should know that there has been one reported case of Thai authorities pursuing people overseas and laying in wait for others to show up in Thailand. Lese majeste is meant to maintain and protect a stupendously rich and opaque […]




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