Lerpong Wichaikhammat, 54, also known as Joe Gordon was taken from his place of residence in Nakhon Ratchasima by the Department of Special Investigation and is currently being held at Bangkok Remand Prison with a denied request for bail.
The charges against Thai-born Mr. Wichaikhammat fall under lese majeste, which breaches section 112 of the Criminal Code as well being charged for subversion and uploading false information which violated the Computer Crime Act. Altogether, the charges could potentially add up to a 22-year jail sentence.
Mr. Wichaikhammat, who had been living in the USA for 30 years before returning to Thailand in 2009 for medical treatment, allegedly posted a link on his blog to ‘The King Never Smiles’, an unauthorised biography of His Majesty, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, that is banned in Thailand. The book is perceived as critical of the Thai royal family and sparked flickers of unrest as the country prepares for the election on the 3rd of July.
The US embassy in Bangkok is said to be providing consular assistance to the man who, to this point, has denied charges against him.
“The United States Government strongly supports freedom of expression, and asks that the Thai Government provide Mr. Gordon (Lerpong Wichaikhammat) with fair treatment,” said Kristin Kneedler, the deputy spokesperson at the US Embassy in Bangkok. “We remain in close contact with Mr. Gordan and his family and we are providing consular assistance – as with all other United States citizens arrested abroad.”
“I cannot speak to exact legal details as yet,” she was quoted as saying when questioned as to whether the US Embassy intended to officially make a public statement concerning the situation. “But I will say that we are in the process of determining the nature of those charges.”
Mr. Wichaikhammat told a reporter from Prachatai online newspaper that he was having difficulties adjusting to Bangkok Remand Prison and that he was worried about the cleanliness of the drinking water.
The DSI are treating this as an “important case” but police have so far refused to divulge the details of the material posted by Mr. Wichaikhammat, although they have stated that the case contains three separate offences that allegedly “violate state security”.
Written by: Kyle Pala
Photo : ASTV, AP