The government of Thailand has blocked the nation’s access to the Yale University Press Web site after the company agreed to publish a biography critical of reigning Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Journalist Paul Handley’s “The King Never Smiles,” which will be published by Yale Press in May, argues that Thailand’s King Adulyadej, who is currently the longest reigning living monarch, is “an anti-democratic monarch … who has protected a centuries-old, barely modified feudal dynasty,” according to the Press Web site.
A statement signed by Thai National Police Chief Gen. Kowit Wattana obtained Friday by the Associated Press said the book has “contents which could affect national security and the good morality of the people.” It was dated Jan. 19, but had not been previously publicized.
The Yale Press has posted an official statement on its Web site acknowledging that the book’s forthcoming publication “has given cause for concern” but defending the author’s research.
“The author stands behind this book 100 percent, as does the Press,” Yale University Press Senior Editor John Kulka said. “His book is a deeply researched, interpretive biography of King Bhumibol [and] has been thoroughly vetted, both by leading scholars in the field and by the Yale University Press Faculty Committee.”
An official at the Embassy of Thailand in Washington, D.C., said he does not think Handley should be entitled to express his opinions on King Adulyadej.
“We respect our king, and we believe that our King should not be subject to the values and judgment of anyone,” he said.
Thai authorities have taken similar action in the past. In 2002, Thai police blocked the circulation of an issue of The Economist because the magazine contained an article critical of the monarchy. Thai law makes any criticism of the monarch an offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison, but prosecutions are rare.
Students from Thailand said they supported their government’s action because they think it is wrong to criticize their king, who they said is loved and respected by all Thais.
“I agree and support fully what my government has done,” Tanat Tananivit ’09 said. “The king is never perceived as cruel in Thailand. It’s almost a family tradition. You’re raised loving your country, your king and your religion.”
Apinya Ruangthaveekoon ’06 said she does not think the law denying Thais the right to criticize their monarch infringes on their right to free speech.
“Even though the law states that you cannot speak against the king, no one feels as though they need to,” she said.
Handley’s book is scheduled for release this summer, at a time when Thailand will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of King Adulyadej’s reign. Kulka said the timing of the release with the anniversary was purely coincidental.