American citizen Joe Gordon was arrested on 26 May 2011 by the Department of Special Investigation on lese majeste, security and related computer crimes infringements accused of translating parts of The King Never Smiles into Thai. Joe was essentially forced to plead guilty but never admitted the offense as charged. He was eventually pardoned on 10 July 2012. Even if he had translated TKNS, that was a legal book in the U.S., where Joe resided. Joe still denies committing any crime admitting that he posted links to the article.
Joe has given his first interview on lese majeste, in this AP report , as he prepared to leave Thailand on 8 November. In it, he vows “never to return until his motherland stops being so ‘thin-skinned’ and allows full freedom of expression.” He says that “the country’s harsh laws outlawing criticism of the monarchy are holding back its democratic development.”
He said his time in Thailand made him “very aware now that Thailand is not really the land of smiles, and you have to be careful what you are doing in this country…. It seems like on the surface a nice country, but if you dig deeper it is dangerous and can harm you.”
As the article notes, Joe’s case raises serious “questions about the applicability of Thai law to acts committed by foreigners outside Thailand…”. He adds: “As an American citizen, I didn’t do anything wrong…. It’s my freedom of expression on American soil.”
Defending freedom of expression, he said that in Thailand the attitude is “if you don’t believe and you don’t follow us in the way we are doing things, it means you are insulting us.”
Joe reveals that when he was arrested, he was accused of “wanting to turn Thailand … into a republic.” He claims “an officer pointed to a poster of the Declaration of Independence … hung on his wall [and] said ‘You want to change this country to be like this. You want a republican [sic.]’…”.
He also explains that during his 14 months in jail,
his health problems grew worse because of conditions he described as inhumane. He said the situation was worse for those accused of political crimes, such as lese majeste prisoners or those associated with the Red Shirt political movement….
“When the doctor knows that your case is a lese majeste or you are a Red Shirt or you are a political prisoner, they will not treat you, they will not give you medicine,” he said.
Joe called for the lese majeste law to be abolished and for the “release all the political prisoners…”.