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In Thailand, three years in jail for ‘insulting’ royalty

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BANGKOK, THAILAND – Not long ago, Harry Nicolaides was another aspiring novelist toiling in obscurity. His self-published debut “Verisimilitude” sold only seven copies.

Today, he got his 15 minutes of fame. But it wasn’t exactly the publicity he might have craved.

A Thai court sentenced Mr. Nicolaides, an Australian, to three years in jail for offending the monarchy, a criminal offense in the Kingdom of Thailand. He had pleaded guilty, earning a sentence at the lower end of the prescribed range for lèse-majesté.

The crime was committed in a single paragraph in “Verisimilitude,” a 2005 novel set in Thailand that is salted with social commentary. At the sentencing, the judge read out the offending section to the court, which was packed with foreign reporters. The judge said the author had insulted the king and crown prince in the passage.

What exactly did Nicolaides write to deserve such harsh treatment?

That would be telling. And telling is tantamount to repeating the offense in the eyes of the Thai legal system. So I won’t do it, though stealthy Internet searches may turn up an excerpt or two from the book, which until recently was on the shelves of Thailand’s National Library.

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