Economist Withholds Issue From Thailand on Royal Law

The Economist magazine did not distribute its most recent issue in Thailand because it contained an article that may have violated the country’s strict laws against insulting the king, a spokeswoman said.

“We decided not to distribute The Economist in Thailand last week out of consideration for our local distributor, who would otherwise have risked breaching Thai laws,” Emma Smith said in an e-mailed statement.

The Economist issue for the week of Dec. 6-12 contained an article about King Bhumibol Adulyadej that quoted from “The King Never Smiles,” an unauthorized 2006 biography written by Paul Handley that isn’t sold in Thailand because it criticizes aspects of the nation’s monarchy. It also called for an end to the country’s so-called lese majeste law, which can put violators behind bars for as many as 15 years.

The Economist had sent an e-mail to subscribers in Thailand on Dec. 5 saying it could not deliver the issue because of the eight-day seizure of Bangkok airports and the inability of Phuket airport to handle freight. It extended subscription periods for one week “to cover this missed issue,” according to the e-mail.

Although not on the shelves, The Economist story could be accessed online in Thailand. The country’s Foreign Ministry sent a letter to The Economist rebutting the article and has not formally banned the issue, said Tharit Charungvat, a spokesman.

During his six decades on the throne, 81-year-old Bhumibol has achieved near god-like status. His many trips to rural areas combined with strict laws against insulting him and a public relations campaign that extends from history books to nightly newscasts have propelled him to unrivaled popularity.

Thailand’s constitution says the king “shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated.” Bhumibol’s statement in 2005 that he could be criticized hasn’t stopped a stream of lese majeste lawsuits, one of which forced a cabinet minister to resign in May.

(Published by Bloomberg - December 9, 2008)

latest top stories

subscribe |  contact us |  sponsors |  migalhas in portuguese |  migalhas latinoamérica