Thailand prohibits imports of biography of nation's king

Thailand has banned imports of a biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej to be published by Yale University Press in the United States , according to the Royal Thai Police. A statement signed by national police chief Gen. Kowit Wattana obtained Friday said the book, "The King Never Smiles," has "contents which could affect national security and the good morality of the people." It was dated Jan. 19, but not previously publicized.

The book by American journalist Paul Handley, who reported for several years from Thailand and now lives in the United States , is one of the few comprehensive biographies in English of the 79-year-old king, the world's longest-reigning monarch. The king marks 60 years on the throne this June.

The king is revered by most Thais, and words and behavior considered insulting to the monarchy are punishable by up to 15 years in prison, although violations have rarely been prosecuted in recent years. In 2002, Thai police halted distribution of an issue of The Economist magazine that contained an article perceived to be critical of the monarchy.

Thailand 's Information and Communication Technology Ministry said Thursday that at the request of the police it has blocked access to a Yale University Press Web page with a short summary of the book, scheduled to be released in July.

Since 2002, the government has blocked Web sites considered undesirable, although most of the banned sites are categorized as pornographic.

Yale University Press said it is aware of the concerns surrounding the book, which it said "is dispassionate in tone and temperament, and has been thoroughly vetted both by leading scholars in the field and by the Yale University Press Faculty Committee."

"The author stands behind this book 100 percent as does the ( Yale University ) Press," it said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press from senior editor John Kulka.

It described Handley's work as "a deeply researched, interpretive biography of King Bhumibol, covering the king's life, thinking, and ruling philosophy", reports the AP.


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