Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An appeal to free a writer

To all readers of my blog, this is an appeal.

This is in context of the imprisonment of a writer, Mr Harry Nicolaides, for violating Thailand's "Lese Majeste" laws. He was sentenced last night. More information is here. Briefly, he wrote a book in which an oblique and brief reference to a royal character has been considered as portraying the Crown Prince of Thailand in bad light.

The right to freedom of expression is an important right. If you agree, please support Mr Nicolaides by emailing (or better, by sending a letter via post) your country's Thai embassy asking for his release. It will take you some time, but will create an additional instance of pressure on the Thai government. There are already some efforts underfoot, and there are indications that he might be pardoned, but don't let others' efforts desist you from acting individually. By doing your bit, you can ensure that he gets out faster.

For India, the addresses are:

Postal: Royal Thai Embassy, 56-N, Nyaya Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi-110021

For the United States, the addresses are:

Postal: 1024 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Suite 401 Washington, D.C. 20007

For other countries, please visit

A sample letter follows (this is the letter that I sent to them). Please feel free to use my letter verbatim, and to direct people interested in freedom of expression around the world to this page.

The Ambassador
The Royal Thai Embassy

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing this letter to express my distress at a recent unfortunate event in Thailand.

Harry Nicolaides, a writer, has been jailed for 3 years for violating the "lese majeste" law of Thailand. He has pleaded guilty for his offense, and has already been in jail since August 31, 2008.

I appreciate that the law of the land must be upheld without considering the nationality or the status of the guilty, but sometimes the laws are not the best vehicles or expressions of people's wishes.

Mr Nicolaides has suffered for his mistake, and further punishment will not serve any purpose but to bring notoriety to Thailand.

This law, and its enforcement in the present instance, has brought disrepute to the Thai land as a country which does not value freedom but one which is regressive. A modern nation is expected to uphold the right to freedom of expression of a human being. A government which represses the voices of its people will only create an environment of fear, fear for those who govern as well as those who are governed.

I appeal to you to pardon Mr Nicolaides and to reconsider this law in the context of human rights, or risk the whole world considering Thailand as a country whose laws are archaic and whose government is autocratic. You also risk a loss in tourism, one of the biggest source of Thailand's revenue.

As an individual protest, I will not visit Thailand till Mr Nicolaides is pardoned, and will discourage anyone I know who is planning to visit your country as a tourist.



dadi ma ke kisse-kahani said...

if a country has a law against something, in this case criticism of the King ( flights before landing in Thailand announce this to all the passengers, Embassies issue an advisory to people being given ViSa to Thailand) how do you defend Freedom of Expression to a writer who was living there for sometime.
What ought to denounced is the totalitarian regime in 21st century with such antiquated laws. The writer deserves the punishment and he should go through with it with courage and come out, move to another country and write about his ordeal. That is the best he can do here.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi dadi ma:

1. the law is unjust and archaic

2. the punishment is too harsh, considering the quantum of the crime.

3. how many people read the brochures completely before landing in a country? i have been to thailand and was not aware of this law.

dadi ma ke kisse-kahani said...

Hi Harman

1. the law is unjust and archaic

# yes and that ought to be decried, in general. Of course, that will imply questioning the relevance of monarchy itself which is a bigger national struggle for the Thai.

2. the punishment is too harsh, considering the quantum of the crime.
# sure. so, now you are in agreement that the "punishment" itself was justified. Does this mean that a lighter punishment would have been better and you state that he has been given that, in the draft letter. In that, you are agreeing that a law was broken.

But a while back you said the law was archaic. well, make up your mind buddy! what is acceptable: archaic , irrelevant law or a mild punishment. :-)

3. how many people read the brochures completely before landing in a country?
# too bad , if they don't. ignorance of law is not a defense.( i have cross checked and most airlines announce this before landing in Thailand. But, of course, people do not pay attention to that either). That happens when one lives a life of inattention and laziness.

i have been to thailand and was not aware of this law.

# i have not been to Thailand. Does that mean my argument is not acceptable? If acceptable, i'll go further.

and good for you that you did not get into trouble over this. No one will pay attention to such a claim as not reading the brochure properly. Drug Trafficking in some South Pacific countries is a crime punished with a death sentence. Ignorance of the statute will not save someone's skin, if caught. To YOU the writer's offense is not comparable to drug trafficking, but in Thailand , it is .

root for the cause not the symptom! and the writer knew what he was getting into pretty well!!

I am all for raising voice against the Thai government and have written to them already. But i am not rooting for this writer alone!

Harmanjit Singh said...

1. consensus

2. yes, since the law is in force, the punishment was justified and (in my opinion) he has been punished. the law is archaic and should be protested, along with the unduly harsh punishment in this instance of its enforcement.

3. drug trafficking across borders is well-known to be illegal. free speech is in general taken to be granted in modern societies (esp in works of fiction). a major departure from international norms of human rights needs to be well-publicized. ignorance of law is no defense, but that is also a legal principle and i think is unjustified in many cases where the law is not well-known. laws are for man, not vice versa.

in my letter, i am primarily rooting for a man, but also say (unlike various other petitions on the net) that the law is unjust and archaic.

i think you want the man to be punished somehow, despite agreeing that the law is silly. why? the intent will drive our arguments.

dadi ma ke kisse-kahani said...

"i think you want the man to be punished somehow, despite agreeing that the law is silly. why? the intent will drive our arguments".

I do not want the man to be punished for free speech or violation of it.

I will want him to take on the ordeal ( my hunch is he knew what he was getting into) and make something out of it.

Fiction is sometimes truer that facts. Fiction is based on facts as well. However, we live in such times that absurd laws and sentiments curb creative expression itself.

"International norms": who makes them? who decides them? who puts them in pratical use?

Punishment is ideally an exercise in reformation or a deterrent. In this case they are making an example of him to deter others. To my mind they are justified in their action of implementing their rule of LAW. It is the Law which needs to be questioned.

Besides, the writer had other choices to exercise his freedom of expression, without breaking the Thai law.

dadi ma ke kisse-kahani said...

you may like to read this: