Monday, 19 January 2009

To forget is dangerous

Around 6 years ago, I was waiting at Doha airport for a connecting flight to London. A security guard came up to me and asked me to go and sit elsewhere. When I asked why, the guard pointed to a sign above which said the place I was sitting in was reserved for women. I hadn't noticed the sign and nearly got into trouble. I am pretty sure that if the incident had taken place elsewhere in Doha, I would have been in some serious trouble. This incident came to my mind when I read about an Australian writer sentenced to three years in jail for insulting the Thai King. Most probably, the poor chap did know that Thailand has strict lese-majeste laws, but did not even imagine a situation where they would apply to him. When waiting at Doha Airport, I did know that Qatar segregates men and women in public spaces, but didn't really expect to be ticked off by a guard for sitting in a women-only part of the airport.

 

Do all countries have a duty to give extra publicity to their laws and regulations which foreigners might not be expected to know? Singapore and Malaysia make sure that all foreigners travelling there are aware that these countries punish drug traffickers with long prison terms or even death. Should Thailand put up posters at Bangkok airport bringing its  lese-majeste laws to the attention of all foreigners? In the absence of such extra-publicity, should they be so stringent with this Australian writer?

3 comments:

Sujatha said...

Buyer beware, right? Just as we find out the entry requirements before going to a country, educate yourself? I would assume that a good travel guide would highlight these situations/

naperville mom said...

I did read the post abt the writer and empathize with him but can't help but wonder abt the responsibilities of visitors to home culture.

Winnowed said...

Sujatha and naperville mom, you have a valid point. However, in this instance, I don't think any travel book about Thailand could have educated the Australian writer enough about never critising the monarchy. If I were to move to Thailand for a few years and blog from there, there is a very good chance that I would have said something about the King that could have got me into trouble!