Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Harry Nicolaides

As a past resident of Thailand a number of people have asked me what I think of the Harry Nicolaides case. Nicolaides has just been jailed for 3 years for lèse majesté - specifically for insulting the Thai monarchy.   Generally I am puzzled at what has occurred as Nicolaides has worked in Thailand since around 2003 - he should clearly have understood the reverence and respect Thais place on their monarchy.  I find it difficult to believe his claim that he didn't understand the law since any foreigner working in the country finds about about this very quickly.

Moreover, it is not just a question of law. The fact is that the Thai do hold the monarchy in intense respect.  They have an almost religious significance. Almost every household in this Kingdom has pictures of His Majesty the King (King Bhumibol) and other members of the Royal Family.  There is affection and respect for the Royal Family. In addition the Monarchy are seen as unifying the nation.

Australians who are republicans or luke warm royalists might find it difficult to appreciate these attitudes but for the Thais they are genuine and heart-felt.  Thailand is a very free and easy society - I don't believe it is too much to expect foreigners to appreciate these significant Thai attitudes.

Nicolaides seems at least to have been most unwise. As some have pointed out he seems to have even sought to draw attention to his poorly-written novel through his own actions.  On the other hand life in a Thai jail is a fearful outcome and, given that he has already served some time in jail, I can only hope that His Majesty the King grants him a pardon.  This has happened in the past in other cases of lèse majesté .  I am uncertain that public protests outside of Thailand are the best way of achieving this outcome.

If you are travelling or living in Thailand you need to be respectful of the monarchy. And of course keep away from illegal drugs.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
hc said...

That sort of comment is not accepted here. You would get me in trouble too you sleeze - you are too cowardly to write your own name.

CaptainReality said...

I'm always amazed at people such as yourself who are unwilling to promote freedom of speech, even where one of your fellow citizens is involved.

The logic that is use to excuse the Thais in this case is exactly the same logic used to excuse countries that chop off thieves' hands, and stone adulterers.

Chris S. said...

Freedom of speech is a universal human right, and it makes your blog possible. It isn't right to hide behind cultural relativism.

You can't possibly think this is a fair sentence - yet all your public contempt is directed at Harry Nicolaides, suffering in prison.

Attacking the victim of an outrageous judicial injustice, while censoring yourself in order to avoid "getting in trouble" - isn't *that* cowardice?

hc said...

Chris S, There is no contempt at all for HN and the severity of his situation is acknowledged. I've seen thai jails.

But his actions seem inexplicable to me and to other commenters I link to.

You have to respect the laws of other countries when living in those countries. That's not cowardice - its common sense.

BTW cowards who insult anonymously can find somewhere else to post. Not here at my cost.

Anonymous said...

Well said! Harry Nicolaides should have followed and respected the Thai cultures and norms.

To examplify you, I would love to give an excellent example. Canadians would not appreciate to hear someone idly compares them to Americans. Why? I do not know why but that is just what it is and I respecct them. I do no compare them to Americans.

Same to the Thais. We might not understand but at least, we must be respectful to their cultures or norms.

Thank you

Patrick Myers said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
hc said...

Sorry Patrick, But on this issue I can't be bothered dealing with smarties. Pity - your comment had a good point.

Patrick Myers said...

Now I understand why you defend the Thai government's method of dealing with criticism.

ryder said...

hold on... if the Thai people's reverence for the King is genuine, why does it need to be legislated?... just asking ;)

Stephen Jones said...

Nicolaides had previously published a trashy piece of yellow journalism on Saudi Arabia in the New Statesman. Publishing unsubstantiated allegations appears to be his trademark.

Ian said...

You cast a jaundiced eye at Harry Nicolaides, impugning him for poor writing and self-promotion (neither of which are crimes).
At the same time, you blithely accept the lese-majeste law at face value, as an expression of the Thai people's reverence for the king. If you do know Thailand, you know full well that this law, as applied in practice, has little to do with ensuring respect for the king. It is used as a tool of repression by powerful people outside the royal court but inside the Thai government to crush real or perceived opponents. In short, you are whitewashing immoral political repression.

hc said...

Mike,

Sorry but you reprinted in full the offending passage from the book which I obviously had to delete.

I am surprised that people just don't get it.

derrida derider said...

What Ian said. Laws like this are all about domestic politics and should be unequivocally condemned.

Yes, Nicolaides may well be a fool but that is totally beside the point.

RF Merrill said...

As a writer of a novel, my first, Tankman in America (www.trafford.com/06-2248),having to do with freedom issues and the support of detained asylum seekers in the U.S., a novel based upon my experiences, I feel a special empathy for Harry Nicolaides. I of course support the concept of free speech. Nicolaides should have been aware of the consequences of writing in a country where free speech is not allowed, at least not with respect to the monarchy there. The free world and Thai people in favor of democracy and free speech need to put pressure on the Thai government to nullify its repressive laws. In the meantime, it's to be hoped that the monarchy will recognize the wisdom of granting Harry an immediate pardon. R.F. Merrill

Royal Nforcr said...

Th Empress of Mandalay has dcrd that th lttr aftr "D" shall b rsrvd for us in hr nam alon, to xprss hr singular glory. To us this lttr othrwis is to insult th popl of Mandalay. W dmand that you rmov all unauthorizd us of this lttr from your wbsit. Thank you.

Yobbo said...

I agree with Harry here.

Nicholades was quite obviously trying to ingratiate himself amongst the (notoriously clique-ish) thai expat elite.

That is the only reason to want to write a book explicitly embarassing one of the most unimportant monarchies in the world.

The expats in Thailand tend to divide themselves amongst the good (the company execs, journalists, professors and otherwise "good people") who are in Thailand because they have to be, and the Sex Tourists who are there to bang cheap whores.

Nicholades was there to bang cheap whores and thought he could redeem himself by writing a book criticising the monarchy. Idiot.

Ray Thompson said...

Free Harry Now!
http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2009/01/21/harry-nicolaides-thailands-latest-political-prisoner/

Ray Thompson said...

The entire book can be downloaded here (link is also in my sig).

http://media.portland.indymedia.org/
media/2009/01/385164.pdf

Those of you criticizing the book - you've read it already, right? You wouldn't actually denounce a book without having read it, would you?

CW said...

Yes I've read it. It's a not very well written guy meets girl in Thailand story. He obviously felt the need to beef it up with some political controversy.

He used to write for the Phuket Gazette too...here's a sample...

http://web.archive.org/web/20040204151426/http://www.phuket-info.com/harry/031209-travel11.htm

Francis Xavier Holden said...

Ray Thompson - yes I've read the book and a bunch of Harry's (HN not HC) dreadful writing as well. I agree with yobbo and others Harry N is a special kind of idiot (I reserve judgement on HarryC).

However I would like to see him out of the pokey.

hc said...

Glad to see you have reappeared on my blog FXH. I thought that my comments on vaginal elasticity restorers and penis extenders - as they were shamelessly promoted on your blog might have led to me being reported to the ACCC and the Pope.

I am not really having a go at this unfortunate 'other Harry'. Whatever his sins he has really ended up in deep doo dah. My guess is he will be given a pardon fairly soon.

Its just that it is so silly. The Thais are very foregiving tolerant people - they forgave me much. Mainly they are happy if you are happy - it is a national ethic.

But yes they take the monarch seriously and so do I. I also take the beautiful people of Thailand seriously and with very great affection.

Anonymous said...

It is alarming to read all the negative unfounded comments about Harry on internet blogs and other online opinion sites, particularly that he is a fool who brought the charge onto himself, knew what he was doing and deserves the punishment. Harry was not arrested for lese Majeste; but the corrupt Thai police know the real reason for grabbing him - improper political gain. How can the book be offensive when a copy still appears in the National Library of Thailand (which had also accepted the book)? Why was Harry able to travel internationally 5 times after the arrest warrant was issued and get another Thai visa? Why did it take 3 years after the alleged offence for an arrest warrant to be issued, especially when it seems the only evidence the Police had was the book? Why didn't Harry receive responses to letters he had written to Thai government agencies and the Australian Ambassador in Bangkok PRIOR to publishing the book which sought guidance about whether the content of the book caused any difficulties? Harry's case is not about Lese majeste but this seems to be what most uninformed readers think he has committed. In most Lese Majeste charges, nothing is at it seems. Harry is the victim of a Thai political game and the Australian government know this but have chosen to standby and let an Australian citizen rot in gaol. They also knew this was coming. Shame on them and to Mr Yobbo who is the obvious idiot.

CW said...

Anonymous has a point. The lese majeste law is used politically and Harry is just a pawn. As a farang visitor in Thailand he would have been wise not to play the gonzo journalist IMO. He would also have been wise not to brag about teaching illegally.

Peter L said...

Although i agree that you should respect the laws of another Country. Surely you can't think that just because the majority of Thai's love their king doesn't mean there should be a law preventing any critism of the monarchy.
Thailand is very different culturely from the west that is true but that doesn't make this law right.
There have been Thai residents that have arrested by this law. I read about someone who was arrested for not standing up in the Cinema when the national anthem was playing.
So when you say that all Thai's love their king this isn't stictly true. It's the majority that love him.