The King Never Smiles
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The King Never Smiles
The King Never Smiles book cover
Author(s) Paul M. Handley
The King Never Smiles is an unauthorized biography of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej by Paul M. Handley, a freelance journalist who lived and worked as a foreign correspondent in Thailand. It is published by Yale University Press and was released in 2006. The book was banned in Thailand before publication, and the Thai authorities have blocked local access to websites advertising the book.
1 Book summary
2 Censorship in Thailand
3 Dueling biographers
4 Critical reception
4.1 International reception
4.2 Thai reception
5 Publication history
6 See also
8 Further reading
The publicity materials at the Yale University Press website originally described the book as telling "the unexpected story of (King Bhumibol Adulyadej's) life and 60-year rule — how a Western-raised boy came to be seen by his people as a living Buddha, and how a king widely seen as beneficent and apolitical could in fact be so deeply political, autocratic, and even brutal... Blasting apart the widely accepted image of the king as egalitarian and virtuous, Handley convincingly portrays an anti-democratic monarch who, together with allies in big business and the murderous, corrupt Thai military, has protected a centuries-old, barely modified feudal dynasty."
The New York Times noted the book "presents a direct counterpoint to years of methodical royal image-making that projects a king beyond politics, a man of peace, good works and Buddhist humility." and, "The book describes [the King's only son], Vajiralongkorn, as a willful man prone to violence, fast cars and dubious business deals."
Censorship in Thailand
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See also: Censorship in Thailand
Well before its release, in January 2006, the Thai Information and Communications Ministry banned access to the book and blocked access from Thailand to the book's page on the Yale University Press website and at Amazon.com. In a statement dated 19 January 2006, Thai National Police Chief General Kowit Wattana said the book has "contents which could affect national security and the good morality of the people."
On 19 July 2006, ThaiDay, an English-language Thai paper, reported that the Thai government made great efforts to suppress the book, even contacting former American president George H. Bush and the president of Yale University, Richard C. Levin, to enlist their help.
In February 2007, the Chula Book Centre, the main bookstore of state-run Chulalongkorn University, removed Chulalongkorn University professor Giles Ungphakorn's 2007 book A Coup for the Rich from its shelves after a manager of the book store found that it listed The King Never Smiles as a reference.
State-run Thammasat University Bookstore quickly followed suit, refusing to sell the book on March 6. However, Thammasat University's rector later reversed this decision and ordered the university bookstore to sell the book.
In October 2011, Thai-born American Joe Gordon was sentenced to two and a half years in prison by a Bangkok judge for defaming the royal family by translating sections of the book into Thai and posting them online. The judgement caused international concern as Gordon had published the extracts several years previously while living in Colorado and was detained only after returning to Thailand in May 2011 to seek medical treatment.