A French expat was threatened with deportation and told to delete several Facebook posts for sticking his nose too deeply into Thai politics.
Yan Eric Marchal, 47, reported on social media that he’d been told by immigration officials in Bangkok that his visa had been canceled and he was going to be deported over his online comments.
His lawyer later said that immigration officials explained there had been a “misunderstanding and that the 14-year expat simply needed to delete the controversial posts on his 31,000-follower Facebook page and keep his trap shut in the future.
“The message that I felt the inspector was willing to deliver, although he would not [say] it, was that I had to be less opinionated on Facebook if I wanted to stay in Thailand. I was specifically asked to delete two posts, which I did,” Marchal wrote online later.
On his Facebook page, where he has more than 31,000 followers, the Frenchman has been an outspoken supporter of Thailand’s pro-democracy movement, which has been seeking to force Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign.
Marchal has also been posting comments critical of Prayut, a former junta leader who seized power in a coup in 2014.
“I knew there’s a risk,” Marchal noted, referring to the fact that as a foreign national he can be stripped of his long-term visa any time by Thai authorities over his outspoken political stance.
“Since we [foreigners] are here on a visa, it’s a risk that we face if they want to revoke it. But I [prefer] to be outspoken anyway because that is my nature.”
However, the incident has served as further proof that foreigners in Thailand do not enjoy the same freedoms of speech and expression to which they may be accustomed back home.
In September, Wesley Barnes, a 37-year-old American man who worked as an English teacher in Thailand, was arrested for having posted negative reviews of a resort on the island of Koh Chang in the Gulf of Thailand where he stayed in June. He was forced to apologize in public to the resort.
The rise of pro-democracy protests again has brought out an increasing number of farangs who are swapping their keyboards for flip-flops and backpacks and joining in rallies at Bangkok’s Democracy monument and Chiang Mai’s Tha Pae Gate, even though the Immigration Bureau has made it clear over the years that it’s illegal for those without a vote to protest.
The longer original version of this story first appeared on UCA News, a Bangkok Herald partner.