Free Joe Gordon


UPDATE
July 10, 2012

Free at last, free at last! 
 
Thank God almighty, Joe is free at last!


After over 13 months, Joe Gordon's ordeal is over.  Joe's lawyer Arnon Numpa says the royal pardon was granted Tuesday. U.S. Embassy spokesman Walter Braunohler says Gordon was freed that night.




MAY 26, 2012
Today marks the 1 year anniversary of American citizen Joe Gordon's arrest in Thailand. We continue with our efforts in obtaining his freedom. We hope you will help us by writing our government leaders in Washington. Joe's imprisonment for practicing his right to free speech in the US should not be punished by Thailand.
MAY 24, 2012
Today, the U.S. State Department released their annual reports on human rights, the 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

From the report:

“On December 8, a court sentenced dual national Joe Gordon (also known as Lerpong Wichaikhammat) to two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment for lese-majeste offenses. Authorities had arrested Gordon in May for involvement, while living in a foreign country, with a Web site that linked to the digital, translated version of a banned biography of the Thai monarch entitled, The King Never Smiles, and he had pleaded guilty.”

We don't think this report is adequate enough from the U.S. State Department in illustrating the atrocity of Joe's incarceration by the Thai government. However, at least Joe is not being ignored by our government  and we as citizens can and should keep our government focused on obtaining Joe's release.  Please help us with our letter writing campaign.


MAY 10, 2012

There was a report in the Bangkok Post where Joe Gordon made comments about the recent tragic death of fellow Thai political prisoner, Ampon Tangnoppakul, also known as Ah Kong and Uncle SMS.  Ampon was sentenced in November to 20 years in prison after he was found guilty under Thailand's draconian defamation laws.  The 62-year-old grandfather was suffering from cancer and did not receive proper treatment by the Thai authorities.   

Joe said it was unbelievable that Ah Kong died. "He looked even healthier than me. If he had been transferred to a temporary prison or bailed, he probably would not have met such an untimely death," said 55-year-old Joe, who says he is suffering from rheumatism.

Joe said the Ah Kong tragedy has ignited a spark of courage among some moderates in the public to speak out, even while the government has been trying to avoid dealing with the section 112 and red-shirt cases. 

"In the prison there are prayers twice a day, but people still die in here. Ah Kong died here amid Buddhist chanting. We heard the news quite late, as we are not allowed TV access.  We learned of it from newspapers," said Joe.

He accepted that Ah Kong's death did not affect the general morale of inmates, since death was commonplace for them. " They don't care.  One person dies, two people die. But for those on the same charge (112), this is  very tragic news and a demoralizing factor."

May 8, 2012
The Thai Ministry of Justice has approved a pardon for Lerpong Wichaikhammat, a Thai-born U.S. citizen known as Joe Gordon, and it has been forwarded to the Bureau of the Royal Household, his lawyer, Anon Numpa, told Reuters.
MAY 1, 2012
Joe has been in jail since his arrest on May 26, 2012. There has been little to no effort by the US embassy or the US State Department to secure his release. A good synopsis of this tragedy can be found on the Political Prisoners in Thailand website.

FEBRUARY 24, 2012

Lawyer Anon Nampha said that the public prosecutor had requested and been granted by the court renewal of a one-month extension to appeal Joe Gordon's case until 8 March, the third time since he was sentenced to two years and a half in jail on 8 November last year.

This extension, in effect, means that Joe's case is not finalized.  He has to remain in prison, unable to seek a royal pardon.

According to the lawyer, the public prosecutor can ask the court to extend the period for appeal indefinitely.

According to a close friend, Joe felt that he was subject to persecution, being locked in jail for a lengthy period time and not allowed to seek a royal pardon, despite the fact that he had already confessed.

The Bottom Line

Joe cannot appeal because he plead guilty in order to seek a pardon on the advice of the United States Embassy which - as an American citizen - he assumed to be acting in his best interest.  But now he cannot be pardoned because the theoretical right to appeal, which cannot be pursued, is perversely kept 'open' in the slimiest of double crosses by the Embassy and the Thai government working in tandem. 

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We received a message from one of Joe’s many personal friends here in the US. He writes:

Joe is an American, like many of us, a regular guy who loves the outdoors.... what happened to him is insane, capricious, terribly unfair, and if this precedent was followed regularly abroad, no American could ever leave the “reservation.

In 2007, American citizen, Joe Gordon, is enjoying his rights in Colorado, USA.


Now, he is at the mercy of the royalist oppressors in Thailand.


Why? Joe was accused of being the owner of a blog while in the US which posted a link and translated parts of the scholarly biography of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej by Paul Handley called The King Never Smiles. This book is published by the well respected Yale University Press and was released in 2006 but is banned in Thailand.


Although Joe was born in Thailand, he lived in the US for over 30 years, and has acquired American citizenship. He returned to Thailand over a year ago to receive medical treatment for high blood pressure and gout. He said that he had never thought of returning to Thailand, but due to his illness and the death of his wife who had died from cancer, he decided to come back to receive treatment in his hometown.

The reaction of the US Embassy in Bangkok to Joe’s plight has been pathetic. It pales next to the strident criticism the State Department gives when dissidents, even those without US ties, are jailed by other authoritarian governments in the neighborhood, like China, Burma and Vietnam. The State Department typically calls for dissidents' immediate release and urges the government in question to uphold international law. 

Given that the US Embassy in Bangkok is apparently unwilling to protect the rights of its citizens can be seen as an endorsement of a supranational application of draconian Thai law over the sovereignty of US law and rights to free speech. 

At the very least the State Department has recently taken the responsibility to warn US citizens that they cannot rely on the support of their government with regards to Thailand’s lese majeste laws.


On the US State Department's Travel Website here.

"CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are in Thailand, you are subject to Thai laws and penalties, even if you are a U.S. citizen. If you violate Thai laws, even unknowingly, you may be fined, arrested, imprisoned or expelled. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. For example, Thais hold the King and the royal family in the highest regard, and it is a serious criminal offense in Thailand to make critical or defamatory comments about them. This particular crime, called "lese majeste," is punishable by a prison sentence of three to fifteen years. The offenses include actions that in the U.S. would be sanctioned as the exercise of free speech. If you use the Internet for this crime, you may be subject to additional criminal sanctions of up to seven additional years in prison. Thai authorities actively search for and investigate Internet postings, including blog entries and links to other sites, for lèse majesté content. They have arrested and charged U.S. citizens and others with lèse majesté offenses for actions that occurred outside of Thailand. You can also be charged if you do not remove a potentially offensive item fast enough from an Internet site you control. Purposely tearing or destroying Thai bank notes, which carry an image of the King, may also be considered a lese majeste offense, as can spitting on or otherwise defiling an official uniform bearing royal insignia."

If only this warning was made before Joe Gordon decided to go back to Thailand. 

______________________________________________________________________

THIS CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE OF US!


JOE GORDON'S IMPRISONMENT 
IS UNACCEPTABLE TO US!
JOE GORDON HAS DONE NOTHING WRONG!

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OUR CAMPAIGN

We’d like to inform all Americans on the current plight of fellow American citizen, Joe Gordon.


Mr. Gordon, born in Thailand, has lived in the US for 30 years.  On May 24, 2011, while visiting Thailand, Joe was arrested by Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) at a home he was staying at in Nakhon Ratchasima. The DSI alleges that he was the owner of a blog which offered a Thai translation of a book and that he placed links to the book on the now closed “Same Sky” web board during 2007–2009, while he lived in the US. He has been in jail since his arrest more than four months ago and denied bail on eight separate occasions! 

But even if Joe Gordon did do what the Thai officials alleged, what crime was it that was so dastardly and sinister as to keep Joe in jail for so long and to deny him bail so many times?

Well, the book which Joe allegedly translated and allegedly placed links to while in the US was The King Never Smiles, an unauthorized biography of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej by scholar Paul M. Handley and banned in Thailand because somebody thinks it is offensive to Thailand's monarch.  Thus, Joe was charged under Sections 112 and 116 of the Criminal Code, and Sections 14 (3) and (5) of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act to which he faces a sentence of up to 40 years in prison! 

WHY SO HARSH OF A SENTENCE FOR SUCH UNJUST LAWS?

The lèse-majesté laws in Thailand contravene the democratic principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Many people are currently in prison in Thailand for merely being accused of expressing their beliefs in a peaceful way. The aim of these laws is obviously to attempt to keep the Thai people in their place by depriving them of these freedoms which are crucial to liberty.  

Also, it has been widely reported that Thailand’s king is revered as a demi-god by many Thais. Revered? A demi-god? This has all the markings of religion: opiate of the people and all. Including religious zealotry. And Thai Royalist zealotry has all the intolerance, fanaticism, hate, and sometimes even militant behavior as is seen with Christian or Muslim Extremists. They are like a cult, with hard-core followers who think and speak alike close-mindedly. They claim righteousness, they ignore basic human rights, they dehumanize critics and opponents and intimidate them as well.   

Now there are those Thai royalists who will attempt to defend their atrocities by saying that we don't understand Thai culture and that THEY RESPECT THEIR MONARCHY AND LOVE THEIR KING. 

Well, we understand perfectly. Their excuse is not a satisfactory justification for oppressing others. They can get back to us when THEY BEGIN TO RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS AND BEGIN TO LOVE THE REST OF HUMANITY.

But back to Joe’s plight…

Joe’s mental state is deteriorating as his cruel imprisonment continues. He is quoted: “I feel that in weeks past, I’m getting in, deeper and deeper. I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel anymore. I’ve never known a depression like this. This has been the most difficult period of my life, and I don’t know how, or when, this is going to end. And I can’t bear it.

He adds: “They [the authorities] keep telling me: ‘keep quiet, keep quiet’. Why should I? I’m tired of keeping silent. When I get out of here, I will tell the world: there is no justice in Thailand. Innocence until guilt is proved does not exist here. I’m a U.S. citizen, who entered the country on my U.S. passport…. I’m not Thai anymore, and I have not been, for a long time.

The royalist judges who continuously refuse bail for Joe claim that the offense is “too serious” and that he is “a threat to national security”.  Joe is a frail 54 year old man with arthritis, high blood pressure and gout; hardly any threat to national security. He is frustrated by the Thai courts which do not release lèse-majesté prisoners to allow them to prepare to defend the cases. In fact, Thai courts want to imprison those accused of lèse-majesté to silence them and to coerce guilty pleas.  It is a form of torture.

Joes says he told the judges: “You are officers of the law. The DSI charged me because of a U.S. website. I am innocent of these charges. Even so, how can anyone think that a website outside of Thailand is within Thai jurisdiction? If you believe in justice, how can you justify my imprisonment? There is nothing about this situation that is fair. This would never happen where I live – in the United States, where there is freedom of expression, and a man has a chance to prove he is innocent.

Joe Gordon makes a great point. America is supposed to welcome and protect immigrants like Joe. 

The Statue of Liberty, a beacon that has welcomed countless millions of immigrants into New York, was originally called "Liberty Enlightening the World." And this is truly her task - to enlighten mankind to the noble ideals of freedom and equality that belong to each one, and to hold high the standard of hope that light will always triumph over darkness.  This is the promise represented in the Statue - that through

every conflict, war, or loss, through every dispossession or abandonment of principle, the torch of freedom will continue to be held high.

It is a promissory note payable to all immigrants.  But has America defaulted on this promissory note with Joe Gordon and other Thai-American citizens?

Thai DSI agents are even venturing on US territory to investigate, threaten and intimidate naturalized American citizens of Thai ethnicity (see here and here).

THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE TO US!

Our government’s official representative to Thailand is Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney. She was transferred there from the Philippines where she was also the ambassador. Current Foreign Minister of the Philippines, Albert del Rosario recently stated that "She (Kenney) was a dismal failure in helping the Filipinos defend our democracy. It would seem that she preferred to be favorably looked upon by the (Philippine presidential) palace."

We’re somewhat surprised that despite her reputation, Ambassador Kenney was transferred to Thailand, a country which is currently in a life and death struggle for democracy. Unfortunately, it appears to us that our Ambassador is not only sitting on the sideline, she is rooting for the wrong side. 

         The Gagging and Rape of Liberty by Thai Royalist Thugs While our Smiling Ambassador Does Nothing 

THIS TOO IS UNACCEPTABLE TO US and we hope that Ambassor Kenney will "leave the dark side" and honor the pledge which is on the official website of the US Embassy in Thailand.

“The mission of the United States Embassy is to advance the interests of the United States, and to serve and protect U.S. citizens in Thailand.”

Over 70 years ago, in his address to Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt said, “In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.”

Notice that freedom of speech and expression is the very first essential human freedom. Also, remember that it is also the very first amendment in our Constitution. The right to freedom of speech and expression, the release of Joe Gordon and all other political prisoners in Thailand surely are in the “interests of the United States.

So we ask the question again: Has America defaulted on its promissory note of freedom and liberty to Joe Gordon?

There are many issues that, as US citizens, we all may FEEL strongly about but never really DO anything about. So let’s do something about this one. Let’s help our fellow American, Joe Gordon.

 Write A Letter For Joe 

We offer a stepping stone for action, to give you, all of you, a chance to make a difference. We don’t want your money. What we’re requesting are real hard core letters written with ink on paper.  Most emails are less than ignored; often, not read at all.  Writing a letter, applying a stamp and posting it may not be very convenient but it isn’t hard.  Not many people write letters anymore so the more the impact of those few that land on the desks of decision-makers.

 If you wish to write the Ambassador to Thailand and express your concerns and disappointments, her name and address is given below.

Ambassador Kristie Kenney
U.S. Embassy Bangkok
95 Wireless Road, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

And for those who feel like Ambassador Kenney has failed in her duty to “advance the interests of the United States, and to serve and protect U.S. citizens in Thailand,” then you may want to write to her boss. Her name and address is given below.

The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
 

And if you wish to write her boss, then his name and address is given below.


The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

And if you still have faith in our democracy, then you may want to consider contacting his boss, the American people. A “Letter to the Editor” to your local news media is most direct but please also consider writing to the people’s elected representatives, Congressmen and Senators. Their names and addresses can be found at the link below.

 

http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Directories.shtml

 

The US is beginning to be engaged in our quadrennial power struggle to determine who will rule the country.  Now is the time to make Joe Gordon’s plight and that of every other political prisoner in Thailand an issue.

Do we support freedom of expression and democracy worldwide or don’t we?



For more information you may contact us at FREEJOEGORDON@ROCKETMAIL.COM


Brought to you by the Agents of the Free, American Farang for Thai Democracy – the American Orange Shirts.