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Australian govt criticised over jailed Aussie in Thailand
Updated November 7, 2008


Harry Nicolaides, who is on remand in a Thai prison.
The Australian government has been accused of failing to help an Australian writer jailed in Bangkok on charges of insulting the Thai monarchy.

Harry Nicolaides was arrested in late August because of a brief passage in a novel he published in 2005.

Three lines in the book referred to rumours about the private life of Thailand's crown prince.

Mr Nicolaides has now been locked up for more than two months while he awaits trial on the charge of lese majeste, and if convicted faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Australian barrister Mark Dean says the foreign minister has failed to help.

"Part of his principle responsibilites are to protect Australian citizens in circumstances in such as this, particularly where a person is being used for political reasons," he said.

"So far the Australian government, from what we can tell, has done nothing."

But a spokesman for Australia's foreign affairs department has rejected claims that foreign minister Stephen Smith has failed to help.

A spokesman for the foreign affairs department says Mr Smith has spoken to the Australian ambassador in Bangkok several times, and that the ambassador has made representations to Thai authorities.

He says the Thai foreign ministry has urgently taken up the matter, and Mr Nicolaides receives weekly consular visits and consular staff regularly assist the Nicolaides family.

Local activist falls to same regulation

A prominent human rights activist in Thailand has also been arrested Friday for insulting the Royal family.

Police say Sulak Sivaraksa was arrested in connection with a talk he gave at a university in northeastern Thailand last December.

It is the third time the 76-year-old has been arrested for stating his anti-monarchist position.

Mr Sulak also faces being jailed for up to 15 years.

Thais hold writer for political reasons, says lawyer

Harry Nicolaides' parents Socrates and Despina at their East Doncaster home. Photo: Angela Wylie
DEPRESSED and despairing in a Thai remand prison, Australian writer Harry Nicolaides is a victim of internal politics in the troubled country, according to his lawyer.

Victorian barrister Mark Dean, SC, yesterday said it appeared the Thai Government was using Nicolaides, 41, to show its support for the country's royal family.

Letters written by Nicolaides from prison to his family describe his desperate state after two months in crowded and unsanitary conditions.

In one message, he said a prisoner died overnight in a cell which contained 57 inmates despite pleading for medical attention. The man's body was not removed until morning, when guards came in to count the occupants.

"The air is always thick with the smell of rotting food and open sewage," he told his mother, Despina, in the note.

"Last week I saw a dead man placed on a wooden cart and carried out of the compound. This week I saw violent fights between inmates in my cell a regular occurrence."

Nicolaides said he was receiving food orders, and fruit from visitors.

Yesterday Nicolaides' father, Socrates, said his son's incarceration was a "living death" for him and his wife.

Harry Nicolaides has been charged with lese majeste, or offending the Thai monarchy, over a passage in his 2005 book Verisimilitude.

Mr Dean said it was alleged Nicolaides was a national security threat because of the publication, but he would have to wait until November 24 before he could discover details of the prosecution case against him.

"For my part, I don't believe that the Thai monarchy would believe what is published in Harry's book is a threat to national security or defamatory of the institution itself," Mr Dean said.

"It would appear that this charge and other charges like it are being used by the current Thai Government to make it appear to the (local) population that (it is) aligned to the monarchy."

He called for more active support from the Australian Government because an Australian citizen was being "used" for political reasons.

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said Foreign Minister Stephen Smith was taking a close interest in the case. He said representations had been made to Thai authorities, but Nicolaides was subject to Thailand's legal process.

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