Banned books and other forms of censorship

On the banning of books, censorship and other freedom of access issues

Monday, September 25, 2006

Thailand attempts to stop book on its king

In today's New York Times, Jane Perlez reports on unsuccessful efforts by the Thai government to dissuade Yale University from publishing The King Never Smiles, a critical book about Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Written by Paul Handley, a journalist who worked 13 years in Thailand, the book is complementary in many respects toward the 80-year-old king, describing him as "earnest, hardworking, gentle, with an impeccably simple lifestyle.'' But Handley also describes the son as irresponsible, and says the King has shown during his 60-year-reign a preference for order over democracy. Handley also notes (in Perlez's words) that "the king sided with a brutal army takeover in 1976, and in 1992 waited three days before stopping a four-star general from ordering troops to fire on demonstrators."

Perlez reports heavy pressure from Thailand on Yale University Press to stop publication. This includes a visit to Yale by a delegation of high ranking Thai officials; contacting Yale University Press; and seeking help from former President and Yale alum George H.W. Bush (no word on how that went), as well as an American law firm, which told Thai officials it would be impossible to prevent its publication. Yale did agree to correct a few minor errors and delay its publication slightly so its release would not coincide with celebrations of the King's 80th birthday in June. The book is now on sale in Asian capitals, but banned in Thailand.

Meanwhile, press restrictions have been imposed in the wake of the military coup last week, which received the King's blessing. The Southeast Asian Press Alliance headlines a report: "Thai media situation deteriorating: Broadcasting regulated, Internet webmasters warned. Community radio stations shut down. Self-censorship on the rise."

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