Monday, 30 May 2011

US Citizen Visiting Thailand Arrested For Blog Posting

BANGKOK — A US citizen has been charged in Thailand with insulting the monarchy after he posted material deemed offensive on his blog and put a link to a banned book, authorities said Friday.
Thai-born Lerpong Wichaikhammat, 54, was arrested on Tuesday in Nakhon Ratchasima province in northeast Thailand and is currently being held at Bangkok Remand Prison.
"He translated articles which are deemed insulting to the monarchy and posted them on his blog. Also he provided a link to a book" perceived as critical of the royal family, said police Lieutenant Colonel Kovit Tardmee.
"He left Thailand when he was 35 and returned for medical treatment in November 2009. He is scheduled to go back to the US this December."
The US embassy said it was providing consular assistance to the man.
"We can confirm that he is an American citizen," a spokesman told AFP.
An official at Thailand's Criminal Court said Lerpong had been denied bail during a hearing on Thursday.
"He was charged with lese majeste, subversion and uploading or linking to false information under the Computer Crime Act," she said.
The monarchy is an extremely sensitive subject in politically divided Thailand, which is preparing for an election on July 3, and rights groups have expressed fears over use of lese majeste to suppress freedom of expression.
Controversy over the law was stoked earlier this month when prominent Thai historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who has tested taboos with calls for reform of the monarchy, was charged with lese majeste.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 83, the world's longest-reigning monarch and revered as a demi-god by many Thais, has been in hospital since September 2009.

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