Michael Yon shares some thoughts about the kingdom of Thailand:
Thailand enjoys freedom of the press. Few topics are off limits. Pornography is off limits.
An insult to the Royal institution can get you imprisoned. If you disparage the Royalty on Facebook while in Kansas, and months later fly to Thailand, you may be arrested and jailed.
If you are an American and you commit lèse majesté, the King may pardon you after some time in prison. If you are fortunate you may be sent back to America and blacklisted. You will not be tortured or beaten.
You will endure the same penal conditions as any other convict, which in Thailand, as anywhere, can be unpleasant. You will be declared persona non grata, and you will not be welcome to return to the Kingdom.
His Majesty King Bhumibol of Thailand is an excellent man of peace, and he is revered as a grandfatherly figure here. I could easily leave Thailand and write otherwise, but this is true.
The King is highly respected by American military and government officials. I was invited to a private clubhouse for American military veterans, and they had a portrait of His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen on the wall.
Behind closed doors, amongst themselves, the veterans of our military hold King Bhumibol Adulyadej in the highest esteem. The King earned respect through hard work for his people. He is beloved.
The King spent much time in the United States in his youth. He is always welcome in America. The King will never go thirsty when I have water.
It is permissible to criticize the Prime Minister of Thailand. The Thai often do it, no matter who he or she may be. Thai people criticize their leadership with passion and imagination.
The current Prime Minister of Thailand is a woman. The United States has never had a female president, while Poland, Germany, the UK, and Pakistan all have had female leaders. South Korea just elected a woman.
While the gender of the chief executive may not be a critical matter, it is clear that America does not have a patent on “democracy,” and in some ways, compared to other countries, Americans are not as free as we like to believe and advertise.
But insulting His Majesty the King is like insulting the beloved grandfather of millions of proud Thai people. I doubt that the King himself cares about such comments, but millions of his subjects do, and passionately.
My Thai friends will defend the King with their lives. The same way that we would protect our grandparents. These many words are meant to underline a matter of utmost seriousness.