January 27, 2009
BANGKOK (AFP) - The Thai distributor of the Economist said Monday it had banned the latest edition of the news magazine, which carried a story about an Australian writer jailed for insulting the monarchy.
In the second ban on the British publication in two months, an Asia Books staff member said the most recent issue was barred from shelves but declined to say why.
"Last Friday's edition will not be on sale here, for reasons which I have not been informed about," she told AFP.
Asia Books in December pulled an edition of the Economist because it carried an article questioning the role of the royal family in recent political turmoil, which peaked with the seizure of Bangkok's airports by protestors late last year.
Friday's publication carried an article about Harry Nicolaides, the Australian writer sentenced to three years in jail after pleading guilty last week to lese majeste, or slandering the royal family.
It questioned whether the lese majeste laws were being used to suppress dissent, rather than to protect the deeply revered royal family.
Asia Books withdrew the edition voluntarily, but Special Branch Police commander Lieutenant General Thiradet Rodphothong said his department was investigating and considering whether to issue an official ban.
Thiradet added that he had asked all Thai distributors to help police screen content that could be considered offensive to the crown.
The protest group behind last year's week-long seizure of Bangkok's airports openly claimed the support of the royal family, but local media avoid any discussion of the monarchy's alleged role in politics.
The Democrat Party government, which has come to power since the protests, has said protecting the royals is a top priority, and has censored up to 4,000 websites for allegedly containing slanderous material.