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Lessons in Free Speech


So, on the same day that comedians gathered to poke fun at the current President and South Park skewered a potential future one, we get this story out of Thailand:

BANGKOK: A Swiss man convicted of lèse-majesté for vandalizing images of Thailand’s king and queen was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Thursday, the first time in many years that a foreigner has faced jail for the crime.

Oliver Jufer, 57, a resident of Thailand for the past decade, pleaded guilty to spray-painting portraits of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit last Dec. 5, the king’s birthday. Jufer could have received up to 75 years in prison, but the judge, Phitsanu Tanbukalee, said he decided on a reduced sentence because Jufer had confessed. [...]

Although the trial has attracted international attention, Thai media have hardly mentioned it due to the difficulty of reporting about the king without committing lese majeste in the process.

However, the king himself has indicated that he is willing to allow greater public discussion and even criticism.

“I can be criticised that sometimes I might be wrong, so that I will know I am wrong,” he said in a speech for his birthday in 2005.

How generous of him.


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