A couple of my very good Aussie friends were visiting Aotearoa this week and we caught up last night for yakitori at Tanuki’s Cave. Unfortunately Tanuki’s is not really a cocktail bar, so I never bother ordering a Martini there. Instead I go for the ice-cold Kirin.
I love Tanuki’s, it has a great jazz soundtrack, the food is fantastic, there’s a good Sake menu and the atmosphere is probably among the coolest in town. As usual the conversation with P&P flowed with the beers and they told me the disturbing story of Harry Nicolaides.
I haven’t come across any coverage of Harry, though I was on my “OE” when most of the drama was taking place. It certainly didn’t make much of a splash in the UK media.
Poor old Harry is festering in a Thai jail for insulting the Thai king in one line in a self-published novel that has sold seven copies. It seems that at least one copy found its way into the hands of the Thai secret police, because in August 2008 Harry was arrested and charged with the crime of “le majeste”.
The Thais take their royal family very seriously – we’ve all seen those fading colour prints in Thai restaurants all over the world – and Harry Nicolaides is now paying the price.
It’s a shocking way to treat anyone, but Harry did not set out to offend the Thai king and he’s also issued a sincere public apology. Unfortunately, he’s now in prison serving a three-year sentence.
A website and campaign has been established to bring Harry home.
Harry is appealing for a Royal pardon and his supporters are now putting pressure on the Australian government to actively campaign for Harry’s release. According to recent reports though, Harry’s family believes the Australian foreign minister and his officials are sitting on their hands.
According to news reports last week the Thai king is considering a pardon. [Herald-Sun 4 February 2009]
There’s some further background material from Australian and international news outlets, including this summary from The Age newspaper.
On August 31 this year, Nicolaides was at Bangkok airport waiting to board a flight to Melbourne when he was detained by Thai police on charges of lese majeste, the crime of insulting the monarchy. The arrest warrant alleged Nicolaides had insulted the Thai royal family in his second book, Verisimilitude, a novel Nicolaides self-published in Thailand in 2005.
Few novels as commercially unsuccessful as Verisimilitude — only seven copies were sold — can have caused so much strife for their authors. The alleged offence is believed to concern three sentences in the book in which the narrator refers to rumours concerning the romantic life of an unspecified crown prince.
“It is simply one of the most bizarre cases I’ve ever come across,” says Arnold Zable, author and president of the Melbourne branch of International PEN, an organisation that campaigns on behalf of writers in detention around the world. [The trouble with Harry]
The offending paragraph is available on the Akha Heritage Foundation website, if you scroll down far enough.
I wish Harry the best of luck with his royal pardon, but obviously, if he is freed, he will not be able to continue his life in Thailand.
You can sign the online petition and the Bring Harry Home site.