An Australian novelist was jailed for three years by a Bangkok court for the crime of “insulting” the family of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Harry Nicolaides, a 41-year old teacher and part time writer was convicted on the basis of a 103 word paragraph about the alleged sexual peccadilloes of the royal family, particularly Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.
He could have received a sentence of as much as twelve years and his decision to reverse an earlier plea of not guilty persuaded the judge to hand down the minimum sentence possible for the crime of insulting the monarchy.
“He has written a book that slandered the king, the crown prince of Thailand and the monarchy,” the judge told the court.
“The court has sentenced him to six years, but due to his confession, which is beneficial to the case, the sentence is reduced to three years.”
He joins a list of people, including several foreigners, to have been prosecuted for lese majeste. The present law was enacted in the 1950s but has never been invoked by members of the royal family themselves.
Instead, individual Thai citizens are empowered to bring charges against others. In the past few years, it has frequently been used by rival politicians who have attacked one another with mutual accusations of disloyalty to the monarchy.
Ironically, the only person with the nerve to question the lese majeste laws has been His Majesty himself. “When you say the King can do no wrong, it is wrong - we should not say that,” he said.
“Actually I must also be criticized. I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I do wrong, because then I know. Because if you say the king cannot be criticized, it means that the king is not human.”
He added: “Foreign countries see Thailand as a country where people cannot criticize the king, otherwise they will go to jail. This puts the king in trouble... and I have to pardon them... Actually, the king has never told anyone to send them to jail.”