Trivialities and Thailand

21 08 2012

A headline at the Arizona Daily Star caught PPT’s attention: “Places where ‘trivial’ acts carry harsh penalties.” It flows from the lese Putin jailing of Pussy Riot. The report lists a number of seemingly trivial acts that land people in jail, beginning with this: “But Russia isn’t the only country where people are punished for offenses that many in the West might consider trivial. People can spend years in prison for insulting the king in Thailand…”. On Thailand it states:

The nation has some of the harshest lèse-majesté laws in the world, mandating a jail term of three to five years [PPT: actually, it is 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 biography about the Thai king and posting it online. He was freed in July by a royal pardon. Amphon Tangnoppakul was not so fortunate. He died in prison in May at age 62, less than a year into a 20-year sentence for [PPT: allegedly] sending four defamatory text messages.

Harsh sentences indeed for trivial acts, and in Joe’s case, acts allegedly committed in the United States where translating parts of a legal book might have raised issues of copyright, but would hardly be considered an act worth years in chains and jail.