Is Thailand at the tipping point?

Thailand's online community has been buzzing with the news that veteran Reuters journo Andrew Marshall quit his job last week to publish a story about US Embassy cables on Thailand. Reuters has refused to run the story because because of the risks involved, which will see Andrew Marshall commit lese majeste on an epic scale, the likes of which haven't been seen since Paul Handley's banned book, The King Never Smiles. Marshall's story is set to break next Monday, on June 13. The story will apparently focus on Thailand's political crisis and the question of the looming royal succession that people aren't really supposed to talk about.

Marshall has said he will probably never be allowed back in Thailand again. If you think he's overreacting then you might have missed the recent story of Joe Gordon, a Thai-American citizen arrested in Thailand for allegedly committing lese majeste on a blog four years ago.

Thailand’s Department of Special Investigations Friday confirmed to VOA that Lerpong Wichaikhammat, 54, known in the United States as Joe Gordon, will be prosecuted as a Thai national despite also being an American citizen.

The DSI arrested Gordon in Thailand in late May and accused him of lese majeste, insulting the revered monarchy, an offense that is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Police say the charge was for, among other things, posting a link on a web log in 2007 to the book “The King Never Smiles,” which is banned in Thailand.

Marshall is also going to release into the public domain the cables that make up the bulk of his story. This is obviously going to cause a stir and users of social media platforms like Twitter are put in a peculiar position as they might have to self-censor what they say about potentially one of the biggest Thailand news stories this half of the year. Marshall has warned netizens to be cautious about what they discuss online, so anyone who is in Thailand or who might potentially want to return to the country at some point must now make a decision about how to deal with this situation.

The last time Thai cables made a stir was with the release of a November 4, 2008, cable depicting what Asia Sentinel called a "weak Thai King" who has continued to involve himself in politics. I've probably said too much already.

This all comes at a curious time for Thailand, which is gearing up for a general election on July 3, pitting Thaksin's sister Yingluck against Abhisit and the old guard. There is the potential for this to be a an even more tumultuous year than 2010 was.

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3 thoughts on “Is Thailand at the tipping point?

  1. Theoretically, the present Thailand government's "Thought Police" are assuming the outrageous pose that they can go after citizens of countries other than Thailand for comments, thoughts, idea, visuals that take place in any country on earth, not just inside Thailand, even a citizen of Greenland living in Kazakhstan, for instance. So we all have to either shut up and live in constant fear of "Thailand's Thought Police" as they roam worldwide looking for "thought criminals" or buckle up and not allow these sad sack 3rd world clowns to take away our right to freely express our thoughts and views as we see fit.

  2. It's one thing to risk breaching the Thai laws if you're breaking a major story, but if Matt gets banned from Thailand for this post it would be a waste of a Thai savvy journalist! Pathetic too, given that the point you are taking a risk to illustrate is incorrect.

    You wrote: "The last time Thai cables made a stir was with the release of a November 4, 2008…"

    What about those BKK Embassy cables WikiLeaks released in December 2010?!

  3. OK, after re-reading the sentence I realized that Nov. 4, 2008 doesn't refer to "The last time…" but to the date of the cable. The grammar isn't ideal, but neither was my reading careful.

    Nevertheless, in this environment, writing about these things calls for an extra measure of caution.

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