Travelers: Subject to Foreign Laws

As if you needed further proof that the system of laws you enjoy in your home country doesn’t follow you on your jaunts across the globe, we provide this most recent example of astonishingly harsh punishment of a foreigner living in a fairly well-traveled country:

According to reports, American citizen Joe Gordon is facing a massive 15-year jail term in Thailand, accused of the heinous crime of (wait for it …) defaming Thailand’s royal family.

Seems the 55-year-old, Thai-born Gordon translated excerpts of an unflattering biography of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej and posted it on the Internet. Unfortunately for Gordon, Thailand has perhaps the world’s strictest “lese-majesty” laws, which have been used to jail political opponents for years. Human rights advocates have protested them many times over.

That said, Gordon has been denied bail, and will reportedly plead guilty to the charges, in the hopes of winning a royal pardon.

“I want the American government to help me, because this is about freedom of expression,” London’s Daily Mail reported Gordon as saying.

Unfortunately, that particular freedom evaporated the minute Gordon stepped through Thai customs.

Let this be an obvious lesson to world travelers: Know the laws of the counties in which you are a guest, and don’t push the limits. Avoid conflicts while a guest in another country. Dodge situations where legality is even minimally questionable.

Perhaps the best tip we can give is to familiarize yourself with the unique legal restrictions of every country you plan to visit. The U.S. State Department provides an excellent legal and advisory synopsis of every recognized country in the world, which you can find HERE.

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10 2011

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