A group of Thai politicians and generals have accused a Times journalist of insulting the country's monarchy by reporting comments by Thaksin Shinawatra — an offence that carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
The complaint against Richard Lloyd Parry, the Asia editor of The Times, derives from an interview with Thaksin that was published in Monday's newspaper and on Times Online the day before.
According to the Bangkok Post, members of a group of Thai monarchists called Siam Samakkhi (United Siam) have made an allegation of lèse-majesté against Thaksin and Lloyd Parry. The Government blocked parts of Times Online
from being accessed within the country.
Kasit Piromya, the Foreign Minister, said: Thaksin's interview is a violation of the monarchy, which is the country's core pillar and a highly respected institution. It is unacceptable and should have never taken place.
It is not clear which parts of the interview led to the complaint by four members of Siam Samakkhi. They include Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn, a critic of Thaksin, and General Somchet Boonthanom, the former head of the Thai Council for National
Latest rankings for press freedom leave Thailand and all other Asean countries with nothing to shout about
Thailand, at number 130, has regretfully joined the ranks of Singapore (133) and Malaysia (131), which are traditionally known for their control of the press.
The Kingdom was ranked at number 66 only seven years ago. It has fallen so spectacularly because of the curbing of press freedom by ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his supporters, then by the military junta which ousted
Thaksin, and now by the Democrat-led government of Abhisit Vejjajiva, which cracked down mightily on the so-called red media in the aftermath of the April riots this year.
Then there is the lese majeste law, used with increased frequency as His Majesty advances in age. As RSF notes: The Thai media has been buffeted by repeated political crises. Several journalists have been assaulted by demonstrators, and scores
of media have been censored for openly supporting the red shirts .
But it has been the crackdown on Internet users and intellectuals - for alleged crimes of lese-majeste - that poses the greatest threat to free expression in the country: Most Thai journalists voice the same reverence for King Bhumibol as the
vast majority of the population. The others are forced into self-censorship.
Indeed, the Index might do well to rethink the direction Thailand and most of Asean is heading, especially when we can't fall much lower than this.
Thailand's Defence Minister, Prawit Wongsuwon, has ordered all military units and their commanders to keep a close watch for websites running reports with lese majeste content, defence spokesman Col Thanathip Sawangsaeng said.
Pol Gen Prawit issued the order at a meeting of the Defence Council.
All military units and their commanders who come across such websites were to coordinate with the Information and Communication Technology Ministry to take legal action against them, the spokesman said.
Units under the Internal Security Operations Command have also been tasked with monitoring community radio stations for lese majeste content.
A Thai man has been sentenced to a year in jail and fined the equivalent of about $600 for allowing an internet user to post photos of a woman having sex to his website.
According to the Bangkok Post, Phongwit Singan was charged under Thailand's Cyber Crimes Act with allowing nude, explicit images of the unidentified woman to be posted to his public photo uploading site, postmungang.com. Because Singan reportedly
confessed, his initial sentence of two years in jail and a $1,200 fine was halved.
Pictures of a naked woman having sex with a man appeared on the site from Oct. 6 to Nov. 30, 2007, and were viewed many times, reports the Post, adding that Singen, who said it was not easy to control the site's nearly 100,000 members
despite continuous efforts to delete improper content, earned about $600 a month from online ad sales.
Considered one of the most intrusive laws regulating the internet in the world, Thailand's Cyber Crimes Act took effect in July 2007.
A British producer cameraman has had to flee Thailand after filming a sequence in which British Royal Marines were held at gunpoint by Thai mafia after hiring a Jet Ski on a Phuket beach.
The cameraman Gavin Hill was today back in London, after fleeing Bangkok, as his Thai crew faced up to a year in jail. They stand accused of assisting in the filming of a sequence which could damage the country's image .
A battle with the Thai authorities has raged for two weeks. Hill said : I've made a tactical withdrawal and am in London to discuss how we can help our Thai colleagues. But yes, I did not wish to argue my case from prison.
We filmed the mafia but suddenly we are the criminals apparently. The atmosphere is a little bit hysterical. The Marines are behind me thank god.
The Thai television company responsible for producing the Big Trouble in Tourist Thailand series, which featured footage of an alleged jet-ski scam on Phuket, is to be prosecuted, the Bangkok Post has reported.
The managers of Black Sheep Productions, which produced the show, could face 12 months in jail and fines of up to a million baht (£18,000), the report said.
The first episode of the series showed a Patong jet-ski operator, Winai ‘JJ' Naiman, extracting 35,000 baht (£630) from a group of British Royal Navy Marines in compensation for ‘damage' to one of his vehicles. At one point, Winai was shown
holding an air rifle as he argued aggressively with the men, who denied damaging the jet-ski.
As well as being broadcast on British TV, the show has been uploaded to YouTube, causing uproar among those who say jet-ski scamming is rife on Phuket's beaches.
In today's Bangkok Post report, Wanasiri Morakul, director of the Thailand Film Office, is quoted as saying those responsible for the show had violated Article 34 of the motion picture law by failing to submit the footage to the Tourism and
Sports Ministry for approval before its broadcast abroad.
Director-general of the Office of Tourism Development, Seksan Nakawong, reportedly said the film-makers had violated Article 23 of the same law for making a film damaging to Thailand's reputation.
Gavin Hill, the British producer of the series, denies the allegations, saying the show was neither fake nor stage-managed.
Meetings at Patong Municipality offices are ongoing with the aim to hammer out details of a compulsory insurance scheme for the island's jet-ski industry. It is hoped such a scheme will put a stop to rip-offs and disputes on the island's beaches.
The second episode in the controversial Big Trouble in Tourist Thailan d television series has just been broadcast in Britain on Bravo - but Thai authorities are now trying to prevent the rest of the eight-part series from
Producer-director Gavin Hill says the Thailand Film Office has sent a letter asking the British production company, Bravo, not to screen any more episodes.
Episode Three, being edited in Britain, is in rough-cut form. The show can only go on with permission from all the people shown on-screen. That includes Winai ''JJ'' Naiman, the now-notorious Phuket jet-ski operator, who signed a release form so
that his actions could be displayed to viewers with his approval.
Hill said tonight's second episode does not reflect badly on Thailand. That was never the intention of Big Trouble in Tourist Thailand, he added.
I don't know what's going to happen now with the series, he said. The Thailand Film Office has 'pulled all the releases and permissions that are required to complete the series. He has been told there is the likelihood of a
complaint being made to the British embassy. At least one volunteer expat tourist policeman in Pattaya had also expressed concern.
In some ways, it's very positive for Thailand, he said: The young lady who was in trouble on Koh Phangan in the first episode is fined 50 pounds, she gets her bail money back, and she is allowed to go, with the only real penalty being
an extra three weeks in Thailand.
By coincidence, authorities on Koh Phangan have announced a plan to make the island, noted for expat full moon rave parties, drug-free as fast as possible.
Episode One of Big Trouble screened last week, revealing footage of what appeared to be an extortion bid by ''JJ'' with a gun in hand, and it came just before a planned summit on jet-ski scams on Phuket. The Jet Ski operators demand
enormous compensation for unlikely damage to the jetski.
Nationwide, crackdowns are underway on crimes against tourists at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok as part of a push against corruption by the Prime Minister.
The jet-ski crackdown on Phuket came after the Deputy PM met with the Australian ambassador. Other ambassadors later echoed their increasing concerns about jet-ski scams to the Phuket Governor, Wichai Praisa-nob.
Thailand's Ministry of Information and Censorship Technology (MICT) is seeking more cooperation from relevant agencies and business groups to prevent supposedly inappropriate content on the internet.
The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) says the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) is authorized to withdraw or suspend the licenses of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who do not cooperate in blocking inappropriate web
On 3 Sept, Minister Ranongrak Suwanchawee, spoke at a seminar on blocking inappropriate and illegal websites, saying that the Ministry would work more closely with the NTC which has the authority to provide licenses to ISPs and providers of
internet gateway service.
The MICT alone cannot handle the blocking of the websites, because there must be various agencies working together and inappropriate websites, including those which are subversive to national security or the Nation, Religion and King, quickly
spread on the internet. the Minister said.
According to Ranongrak, the MICT has set up the Operations Centre to Monitor the Threat of IT Crimes. The MICT is also seeking cooperation from about 100 companies which provide internet-related services, the Thai Internet Association, the Thai
Webmasters Association, the NTC, the police and the DSI to monitor and block supposedly inappropriate or illegal websites.
The seminar was attended by about 180 representatives of these companies and agencies.
Pol Col Suchart Wonganantachai, Deputy Director-General of the DSI and chair of the committee overseeing the blocking of websites, said that currently the most dangerous were gambling websites which were the most easily accessible. He called for
cooperation from all parties, especially the NTC which he said is authorized to revoke or suspend the licenses of internet-related service providers.
Pol Col Suchart said that to deal with inappropriate websites a filtering system must be in place, which required a budget of about 100 million baht. The filtering system is already in place in the US and Israel. The DSI is now developing such a
device, but the details cannot be revealed for now. He believed that the device would improve the effectiveness of the blocking by 90%.
So far the MICT has blocked 18,390 web pages of which 10,578 are considered as affecting national security, 7,690 contain pornographic content, 50 advertise drugs, and 72 offer gambling services.
A year after the new film-censor law came into effect, ten movies were banned from theatres, including Frontiere , Halloween , Funny Games , Zack and Miri Make a Porno and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane , as
they were deemed violent and against good virtue, a senior official at the Culture Ministry revealed.
Director of the misleadingly named Film and Video Classification Office Pradit Prosil also urged movie theatres to apply for operation licences by September or face up to 1 million Baht in fines.
Pradit said that the new Film and Video Act 2008 has been in effect since June 2008 but its five subordinate laws were delayed and had just been all approved by the Cabinet, leading to many problems. However, since it came into effect, ten mostly
foreign films were banned from being screened in Thailand because most of them had violent and amoral content, he said. He cited a film about a male house guest who later killed the homeowner as an example that went against the Thai value of
Pradit also said the 2008-issued ministerial regulations on theatre licences came into effect from July 27 this year, so operators must apply for a license within 60 days. He warned that those who failed to meet the deadline might be subjected to
a fine ranking from Bt200,000 to Bt1 million and a Bt10,000 daily fine until the theatre obtains a licence.
Danny O'Brien, International Coordinator of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), expressed his astonishment at learning that the Thailand's Minister of Information and Communications Technology had revealed that the ministry had already
dealt with 16,944 URLs with improper content.
In his view, it is peculiar for the ICT Minister to come out and claim such an achievement, because it is like a Minister of Transport bragging about how many roads the government has closed, instead of how many the government has built to
benefit the public.
Out of the 16,944 URLs, 11,000 concern national security, 5,872 have content which is socially and culturally inappropriate, and 72 have content affecting the economy.
9,600 web pages have been blocked. The 2007 Computer Crimes Act will be amended to allow Internet Service Providers to immediately block 'offensive' web pages on sight or upon complaint without court orders or requests from the MICT, Deputy
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry says.
In a Manager report on 26 Aug, according to Angsumal Sunalai, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MICT), when contents and pictures deemed offensive to the monarchy are found in the internet,
the MICT will request the ISPs to block those web pages, or URLs, and then will ask for court orders to permanently block them. The request for court orders usually takes only one day.
The human rights group Amnesty International has condemned the secret trial in Thailand of a woman charged with insulting the royal family.
The woman was arrested a year ago after giving a speech in Bangkok in which she attacked the monarchy. People in Thailand who have listened to the speech say they have never heard anything like it. Daranee Charncherngsilpakul took to the stage at
a protest in central Bangkok in June last year and sharply criticised the monarchy. She even made personal attacks on the country's revered King Bhumipol Adulyadej, warning him that the monarchy would be overthrown by a popular revolution.
Given the severe penalties for insulting the monarchy in Thailand, no-one was surprised when Ms Daranee was arrested shortly afterwards.
Her trial, however, which started this week, has alarmed human rights groups.
Red-shirt protesters in Bangkok on 12 April 2009. The presiding judge ordered hearings to be held in secret, citing national security concerns. Her lawyer is appealing, on the grounds that Thailand's constitution guarantees defendants the right
to a public trial.
Sam Zarifi from Amnesty International has warned that when a judge closes the doors on a trial it significantly raises the risk of injustice taking place. The Thai government will have a very difficult time explaining why the trial of someone
charged with making an insulting remark could compromise Thailand's national security.
Ms Daranee faces between nine and 45 years in prison if she is convicted.
A Thai Criminal Court has ordered the closure of 72 websites offering access to online gambling and games.
The court order follows the death of a 12-year-old boy who jumped from the sixth-floor balcony of his school building after he was banned from playing computer games by his father.
Department of Special Investigation (DSI) deputy chief Suchart Wong-anandchai said under a May 19 order issued by the Criminal Court to the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry, the agency was told to shut down 72 websites
seen as encouraging people to place online bets or hooking them on computer games.
Pol Col Suchart, who also sits on the ICT's subcommittee on internet safety, said it was the first time that a court order had been issued in the country to close websites offering online gambling opportunities.
From now on any provider found to encourage or provide online gambling will not only face a jail term and a fine, but also have his/her ISP licence revoked by the ICT, he said.
Among the 72 websites facing closure are 368sb.com and 88suncity.com, both based in the Cagayan Special Economic Zone of the Philippines.
Thai people had little need for multiple media outlets such as cable TV and websites since most spread misinformation, which caused bigger social division, Bangkok Senator Rosana Tositakul claimed.
Do we really need so many media channels? And how could we control a large number of media channels, anyway? Rosana asked at a seminar entitled How to Reform the New Media , held by Thammasat University's Faculty of
Journalism and Communications.
Rosana said media reports about misinformation incited hatred, so the media should report with more conscience.
Misinformation is like toxic food that causes damage to the viewer's brain, Rosana said.
However, Adisak Limparungpattanakit, who heads the Satellite Television Association of Thailand, said a new national broadcasting and telecommunications commission should not only try to control the media, but help people across the country get
access. It should also encourage outlets to produce more good content instead of only blocking 'bad' content.
Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by a government announcement on 14 May that it will introduce new regulations for community radio stations and cable and satellite TV stations aimed at controlling programme content. Broadcasters would be
required to seek permission for each programme being aired, the government said.
The adoption of these regulations would deal a fatal blow to free expression in Thailand, which is already heavily restricted on the Internet, Reporters Without Borders said. The government will have the power to ban programmes that
question their policies and legitimacy. We urge the authorities to scrap this plan.
Sathit Wongnongtoey, the minister in charge of the prime minister’s office, said: Once the regulations take effect, any broadcast station airing content deemed to be politically incendiary will not be allowed to operate.
Political content on community radio and satellite TV stations will be banned under proposed regulations issued by Thailand's National Telecommunications Commission.
The government said it would enforce the changes evenly against any broadcaster which offends, including the red shirt-run DStation and yellow shirt-owned ASTV satellite TV stations.
Prime Minister's Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey said the regulations would allow the NTC to take action against community radio and satellite TV stations which air content deemed to undermine democracy.
The regulations require cable TV and satellite TV channels to seek permission for each programme being aired, Sathit said: Once the regulations take effect, any broadcast station airing content deemed to be politically incendiary won't be
allowed to operate.'
The frenetically paced, ultra-violent Hollywood action comedy Crank: High Voltage has been snipped by Thai censors, who objected to a sex scene that takes place in view of a crowded grandstand at a horse-racing track.
In this sequel, hitman Chev Chelios' (Jason Statham) heart has been stolen and replaced with a battery-powered ticker, so he needs to generate electricity from friction to keep pumping.
In the censored version, the sex scene at the race track simply cuts to the crowd's excited reaction of seeing the couple copulate in the dirt. And then Chev and the dishevelled Eve are on the run from the police.
Earlier in the film, Chev meets his girlfriend at a go-go bar, where other dancers are topless, and naked breasts are clearly seen. But Smart's character, who has become a go-go dancer since the first film, has black electrical-tape X's over her
In the US, Crank: High Voltage is rated R (admission to viewers under 17 only with a parent or guardian) for frenetic strong bloody violence throughout, crude and graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language.
The UK's film censor, the BBFC, explains its 18 uncut rating more fully
CRANK 2 is the sequel to an American action film about a man involved with a crime syndicate who has an artificial heart that requires regular doses of electricity to keep working. It was passed '18' for strong
and brutal violence, gory moments, sex and very strong language.
Violent scenes include a man having the barrel of a rifle pushed into his anus as a means of interrogation; and frequent shoot-outs with generous spurts of blood. Violent and gory scenes include partially graphic sight of a man slicing off his
own nipples and a man having the skin on his elbow sliced off. Such scenes go comfortably beyond what can be accepted at '15' under BBFC Guidelines which state, 'Violence may be strong but may not dwell on the infliction off pain or injury'.
However, the exaggerated and rather unrealistic treatment of the violence, coupled with the intended black humour, mean this does not raise harm concerns which might have prevented it being passed for an adult audience.
Very strong language is used clearly at least four times and this also requires restriction to an adult audience.
There are also scenes showing sexual activity, the strongest of which is a sex scene at a race-track which features full body shots of various sexual positions with naked buttocks. Pixelation masks the strongest detail.
I posted a video of the king on the Internet, Suwicha Thakor told Reporters Without Borders from behind a plexiglas screen in Bangkok’s Klong Prem prison on 20 April. The police should have told me what I was doing was wrong. It is not
right to be sentenced to 10 years in prison for this. I am not a problem for the country or its security. I am in prison for nothing.
Suwicha was given the 10-year sentence on 3 April on a charge of lese majeste. Reporters Without Borders wrote to the king yesterday asking him to grant Suwicha a royal pardon.
Reporters Without Borders and 31 other human rights, press freedom and journalists organisations have issued a joint appeal to the Thai government for a revision of article 112 of the Thai criminal code on lese majeste.
Since a new government took over last December, the authorities have stepped up enforcement of the lese majeste law and the Internet has been one of the leading victims. Access to more than 50,000 websites is currently blocked because of content
critical of the monarchy. Around ten people are being prosecuted (or have been prosecuted) for lese majeste and two of them have been convicted. The crime of lese majeste is punishable by three to 15 years in prison.
Call to the Prime Minister to review the lese majeste law:
We, human rights groups, journalists and the victims of arbitrary lese majeste prosecutions appeal to Thai authorities to review criminal code article 112 on national security offences, under which any defamatory, insulting
or threatening comments about the king, queen, crown prince or regent is deemed to be a crime of lese majeste punishable by three to 15 years in prison.
Access to more than 50,000 webpages has been blocked because of content critical of the monarchy, some 10 people are currently being prosecuted on lese majeste charges, at least two are in prison, and more held without bail.
On Apr 24, the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology sent an e-mail to inform internet service providers (ISPs) of its unblocking of red-shirted websites, noting the situation has returned to normal.
Aree Jiworarak, the Director of MICT's Information Technology Supervision Office, said in the e-mail that the Emergency Decree had now been lifted, and the situation had returned to normal, so ISPs and concerned persons could lift the blocking of
However, he said that ISPs should advise their clients that there were still other laws in place, and they should take into consideration good conscience and social responsibility in doing their jobs. He thanked ISPs and concerned persons for
having cooperated or attempting to cooperate when unable to do so for business reasons. He hoped that in future difficult times, they would cooperate and serve the country yet again.
The Thai internet censors at MICT are currently blocking 6,218 websites 'affecting national security' which includes lese majeste, 2,307 pornographic websites and 430 gambling websites, admitting to 8,955 blocked websites.
Following the anti-government protests, the Thai government has begun to crack down on the opposition media. Will the heavy-handed tactics will incite further chaos?
Radio and television stations in Thailand have been warned by authorities against airing anti-government criticism that could cause civil unrest. Satit Wonghnongtaey, who is in charge of government’s media policy, told reporters that the
government needed to shut down these media, suggesting they had been used to incite unrest in the country.
Opposition websites have also become a target. Thai Netizen Network (TNN), an Internet freedom campaign group, said in a statement on Tuesday that the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology has blocked 66 ‘political websites that
aired views different from those in power’ since 18 April.
Thai Netizen Network (TNN) would like to express our deepest regret with regard to the political conflict that intensified until it led to the loss of lives and properties, and the government's enforcement of the Emergency Decree on Government
Administration In States of Emergency B.E. 2548, which infringes upon citizens' rights and freedoms by controlling Internet media.
The government has blocked numerous websites that offer viewpoints that differ from those in power, pursuant to news report that the ICT Ministry has ordered censorship of over 60 websites.
The Thai government has begun forcibly dismantling red shirt networks by raiding and closing down community radio stations.
Police raided the pro-Thaksin DStation in Bangkok and, in central Chiang Mai, police raided a community radio station operated by the anti-government Rak Chiang Mai 51, which is known to support former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Police seized transmission equipment against a backdrop of angry protests by more than 200 red shirts who gathered outside the hotel. Chiang Mai provincial police chief Sommai Kongwisaisuk said the station was told to stop broadcasting after 6pm
Provincial branches of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) also asked community radio operators not to use their stations to incite unrest.
In Udon Thani, police raided a pro-Thaksin community radio station run by the Khon Rak Udon group. Police seized transmission equipment. Wachira Khamsueb, a radio host, was charged with operating radio equipment without a licence and released on
bail. More than 100 members of the Khon Rak Udon group turned up at the police station to protest the police action.
A team of 30 police officers raided DStation, the satellite TV station run by the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, based in Bangkok. The UDD used DStation to broadcast protest activities and air Thaksin's speeches.
Troops seized control of the Thaicom satellite station in Lat Lum Kaew, Pathum Thani, used by DStation to broadcast reports to UDD supporters in Bangkok and around the country.
The Economist has again decided not to distribute its magazine in Thailand this week because of coverage of the Thai monarchy.
In an email to subscribers the magazine confirmed: Due to the sensitive nature of our coverage on the Thai monarchy, we decided not to distribute the April 18th 2009 issue of The Economist in Thailand.
This week's magazine appears to have two Thailand related articles although the sensitive article is entitled The trouble with Thailand's King . It is sure to thrust Thailand's lese majeste laws into the global spotlight once again.
This is the third edition of the magazine this year to suffer distribution problems this year.
Chiranuch Premchaiporn, webmaster of independent Thai online news portal Prachatai, was arrested March 6 under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act. Her charges resulted from allowing comments posted by readers of Prachatai’s online discussion fora
alleged to be lèse majesté.
On April 7, Chiranuch was called to Royal Thai Police headquarters for further investigation. Thai police laid nine new charges against Chiranuch resulting from the information she herself gave them after her arrest.
Police claim the alleged illegal postings were allowed to remain on Prachatai for periods of one to fifteen days. Police consider each posting to be a separate violation of the computer law even though these were removed promptly after
notification by Thailand’s ICT ministry.
None of the webboard posters have been arrested possibly as it is beyond the data retention period when IP addresses can be traced.
Additional charges under the cybercrime law mean that Chiranuch is facing 50 years in prison for comments she did not create and not self-censoring webboard posts fast enough for government censors.
Police also told Chiranuch that six more persons will be charged later this month under the computer act.
A Thai internet user has been sentenced to 10 years in jail for violating strict laws against insulting the monarchy.
A court in Bangkok said Suwicha Thakho digitally altered images of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his family and posted them on the internet.
The court did not say how the pictures were changed or where they appeared, but local media cited YouTube.
Thailand's royal family is sheltered from public debate by some of the world's most stringent lese-majeste laws, as the police and army try to suppress what they fear is a rising tide of anti-monarchy sentiment.
On April 1st, Aree Jiworarak, of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, said the Ministry's recently established Internet Security Operations Centre (ISOC) had blocked over 7,000 improper URLs or web pages, which included 1,403
culturally and morally offensive pornographic pages.
Now the Ministry is investigating the case of the pornographic animation clip Ninja Love which was posted at mthai website, and is trying to find the poster for prosecution.
Suwicha Thakhor has spent two months in a Thai prison, accused by police of insulting the royal family. He says he should be allowed to express an opinion.
Arrested Jan. 14 and charged in connection with material posted on the Internet, the 34-year-old oil engineer said: We have to be able to think freely. They cannot stop ideas by sending people to jail.
More than a dozen similar cases are pending under Thai law as a widening political divide prompts discussion on the future role of the monarchy.
The lese-majeste law is no different from contempt-of- court laws where you protect institutions that are neutral, that have no self-defense mechanism, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva claimed, he told reporters the law would be reviewed
to make it clearer.
Suwicha, wearing a prison-issued yellow shirt emblazoned with a royal insignia, said his views on the monarchy changed after the coup that deposed Thaksin. Police tracked his Web postings, which he wouldn’t discuss, and read his e-mails, he said.
He was arrested after dropping his kids off at school.
In the past, people fled to the jungle to share their political beliefs, Suwicha said, referring to a Communist insurgency in the 1970s that was suppressed by the government: Now we have Web sites. If they want to stop it, they must
stop the technology itself.
Suwicha, who has twice been denied bail, said he’s hoping for a miracle. If freed, he plans to work on a farm and live a private life. Still, he makes no apologies for his beliefs.
A leading Swiss TV reporter arrested nine days ago has described the defamation action bought against him by a local Aids charity over a documentary made six years ago as bizarre.
Christoph Muller the head of documentary programmes at the German-language SF (Swiss National) TV broadcaster, was arrested and handcuffed on Feb 27 at Suvarnabhumi airport and taken to Bang Lamung police station in Chon Buri.
Muller was held in custody for 24 hours and granted bail after appearing in a Pattaya court. His passport has been confiscated. At the time of his arrest, Muller said he had no clear idea what the charges against him were as the court documents
and arrest warrants were in Thai.
After consulting his lawyers, he learned that a defamation charge had been brought by the charity C.Care Asia International over a documentary aired in Switzerland in December 2002. The documentary, which investigated a Swiss man associated with
the charity, was never shown outside Switzerland, but the defamation complaint was lodged with Chon Buri police on Aug 28, 2005.
The documentary was released on the 6th of December 2002 and you get sued four or five years later? It's bizarre, said Muller.
The offence carries a maximum jail term of two years and a fine of 200,000 baht. Muller, who heads a team producing four-and-a-half hours of programming a week, could be forced to spend up to one year in Thailand while the case is processed.
SF TV described the measures as a 'judicial farce' and 'out of all proportion to his apparent offence' . The authorities have not told Muller exactly why he was arrested, but it appears to have been the result of a 2006 complaint
about a report by Muller in 2002 about a bogus Swiss doctor based in Thailand ... the station said in a statement.
The editor of current affairs, Ueli Haldimann, said: We don't understand the arrest of our head reporter and we demand instantaneous clarification from the Thai authorities. We protest against the method of the arrest. The film Muller made was
only shown in Switzerland. That's why we don't understand why a Thai court stood up the complaint.'
Reporters Without Borders have called on Thai authorities to immediately rescind the order banning him from leaving the country and to return his passport.
On the same day that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told a meeting of news editors of his intention to restore Thailand's press freedom reputation, police officials raided the offices and arrested the executive director of a popular online
news site, Prachatai.
Prachatai's executive director Chiranuch Premchaiporn was arrested when a group of five or six Crime Suppression Division police officials entered the Web site's Bangkok offices. Officers also took copies of the hard drives of some of the
office's computers. Chiranuch was later released on bail.
The director was charged under national security-related articles 14 and 15 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act for postings apparently critical of the Thai royal family made on one of the site's boards, according to Prachatai. It is unclear if
Chiranuch would also be charged under the country's lese majeste law, which criminalizes any criticism of the royal family. Guilty convictions are punishable with a maximum of 15 years in prison.
We call upon the relevant authorities to immediately cease and desist from harassing all online journalists and commentators like Chiranuch Premchaiporn, said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia Program Director : Thailand has unleashed one of the
most aggressive crackdowns on Internet freedom seen anywhere in Asia and we strongly urge them to reverse course.
Prachatai has developed a reputation for independent reporting, particularly through its hard-hitting reports on the conflict between government forces and Muslim rebels in the country's three southernmost provinces. The site was threatened with
closure last year because of comments deemed harmful to the monarchy posted to one of the site's online public forums.
Thailand's first film-rating system will be up and running in May after the Cabinet approved four draft regulations.
Films that authorities deem to offend the monarchy, threaten national security, hamper national unity, insult faiths, disrespect honourable figures, challenge morals or contain explicit sex scenes will be banned from Thai screens.
The ratings are:
General Audiences This category is for films with no sex, abusive language or violence.
13 This category excludes violence, brutality, inhumanity, bad language and indecent gestures.
15 The '13' rules are relaxed slightly.
18 Films can explore the darker side of human nature but must not show scenes of exposed genitalia, crime or drugs.
20 Sex scenes are allowed here but only if viewers don't get a peek of genitalia.
There is an extra category for films that should be promoted on cultural or artistic merit
Thai Film Director Associa-tion chairman Yongyoot Thong-kongtoon said the regulations would give a framework for film directors. One positive side is that it might encourage less low-grade comedies and more movies with substance, he said.
Director and producer Prachya Pinkaew, who sits on the panel that prepared the draft regulations, said he was happy to see the system sail through the Cabinet. The regulations have been dogged by criticism since they were first unveiled.
Representatives of lecturers and students from six Thai universities have asked the print media to be socially more responsible and stop presenting pictures of grisly and violent scenes that can put the public off.
Yubol Benjarongkij, dean of Chulalongkorn's communication arts faculty, said that since the beginning of the year there have been many newspapers, including the market leaders, which have frequently published photographs whose subject matter
included badly burnt victims of the Santika pub fire, bloody crime scenes, dead bodies of accident victims, and the latest, the head of a foreigner dangling from the Rama VIII bridge.
In Thai culture, prior permission from the relatives of the dead is considered necessary, as it is another way of showing respect to the dead.
She said since newspapers were media for all ages, not only for adults, pictures could be worth a thousand words. Too much exposure to such pictures could induce children to imitate violent behaviour, thinking that those crimes and violent scenes
were just normal behaviour.
Udomsak Yoothanaraweesak, a professor at Huachiew Chalermprakiet University, said that more importantly such pictures also reflect the standard of newspapers. He said in the case of a girl who was raped, some newspapers did not publish her
picture but named her parents, school and home address, which made it obvious who the victim was without intention. This made the girl nearly die of embarrassment.
Newspapers as well as other media outlets need to lift their standards and put journalistic ethics before profits, he said.
Herdict Web crowd sources reports from users to discover, in real time, what users around the world are experiencing in terms of internet website blocking.
Herdict is a named coned from joining ‘herd' and ‘verdict.'
Using Herdict Web, anyone anywhere can report websites as accessible or inaccessible. Herdict Web aggregates reports in real time, permitting participants to see if inaccessibility is a shared problem, giving them a better sense of potential
reasons for why a site is inaccessible. Trends can be viewed over time, by site and by country.
Herdict Web is the brainchild of Professor Jonathan Zittrain (The Future of the Internet: And How to Stop It) and is part of The Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
Starting this May, film-rating system will come into effect in Thailand for the first time.
The Cabinet has just approved four draft regulations on the system.
We should be able to enforce the regulations from May onward, Culture Minister Teera Slukpetch said.
Thailand's system will classify films into 5 age groups, plus a category for films that should be promoted on merits of cultures, arts or traditions. And of course there is the ever popular option to ban a film entirely.
A leading Bangkok-based professor who has joint British and Thai nationality fled Thailand at the weekend in the face of a lengthy sentence under the country's draconian lese-majesty laws, which forbid criticism of the king.
Giles Ji Ungpakorn arrived in England at the weekend after being charged under the laws. He had been due to present himself to the police in Bangkok today and could have faced 15 years in jail if found guilty.
I did not believe I would receive a fair trial, said Ungpakorn, an associate professor of political science at Chulalongkom University and a contributor to the New Statesman and Asian Sentinel.
Ungpakorn is the author of A Coup for the Rich , in which he criticises the 2006 military coup. He said that the charges arose out of eight paragraphs in the first chapter deemed insulting to King Bhumibol. He claimed that the director of
a university bookshop stocking his book had informed the special branch that it insulted the monarchy. The offending paragraphs deal with incidents around the coup.
The English chapter of PEN, the international writers' organisation, has written to Bill Rammell, the UK Foreign Office minister who is due to visit Thailand, urging him to make representations to the Thai government.
Carole Seymour-Jones of PEN said: We remain deeply concerned by the increased use of lese-majesty laws in Thailand. Giles is the second New Statesman contributor to have faced such charges in recent months, the first being the Australian
writer Harry Nicolaides, sentenced to three years in prison on 19 January.
Academics from the UK, India, South Africa, Turkey, France, Greece, Poland, Canada, Australia and other countries have also protested. A group, including Professor Alex Callinicos, Susan George and Dennis Brutus have signed a petition expressing
deep concern. In a letter to the Guardian recently, more than 30 academics urged that charges be dropped.
Thailand's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, the Official Censor of the Military Coup, has blocked at least 17,775 websites which, along with blocking by the Royal Thai Police, resulted in more than 50,000 websites
blocked in Thailand. Public webboard discussions, circumvention tools, voices from Thailand's Muslim South and critical commentary of Thailand's monarchy were particularly targetted for censorship.
Thailand's military government also passed a Computer-Related Crimes Act with draconian penalties and onerous data retention provisions abnegating privacy and anonymity and chilling public discussion of vital issues among Thais. The result of
this cybercrime law was to criminalise circumvention with one notable exception, the Virtual Private Networks (VPN) relied on by business to create a secure, private, encrypted channel.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) has now
provided links to easy tools for private citizens to legally ignore Thailand's Internet censorship. Virtual Private Networks have been complicated to set up and difficult to maintain. However, with these two free, public tools, VPN is
available to everyone.
Thailand's Internet--once open and free--is fast morphing into one of Asia's more censored cyberspaces. But a new group of concerned Thai citizens, known as the Thai Netizen Network (TNN), is bidding to turn back the tide of government censorship
through advocacy and monitoring.
Web sites that have posted materials deemed potentially offensive to the Thai royal family have been blocked by successive military-appointed and democratically elected Thai governments. And the campaign of censorship is accelerating under new
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Beginning last year, a group of academics, activists, journalists and webmasters held informal meetings to discuss the emerging threat to Internet freedom in the wake of the passage of the 2007 Cyber Crime Act and the intensified use of lese
majeste charges against journalists, commentators, and everyday Internet users. Both laws give Thai officials the authority to censor news and opinions that could be deemed a threat to national security or the monarchy.
TNN coalesced into a formal organization soon after several local Web sites, including news and commentary outlets Prachathai and Fah Diew Kan, were threatened with closure last year by officials for posting materials offensive to the monarchy.
Fah Diew Kan's site was eventually blocked in January after officials threatened the site's ISP administrator.
TNN coordinator Supinya Klangnarong told CPJ that the new group's main missions are to keep Thailand's Internet open and free, to monitor government surveillance and censorship, and to provide moral and legal support to Internet users and writers
who encounter harassment for their postings.
Currently, TNN is publicizing the case and arranging legal representation for Suwicha Thakor, an oil-rig engineer who was arrested and held without bail on January 14 for posting materials onto the Internet considered offensive to the monarchy.
They have also taken up the case of BBC correspondent Jonathan Head, who faces three different lese majeste complaints filed by a senior Thai police official.
The government in Thailand has set up a special website urging people to inform on anyone criticising the monarchy.
It has also established a war room to co-ordinate the blocking of websites deemed offensive to the monarchy. On its first day of operation the centre banned nearly 5,000 websites. The Ministry of Information had already blocked many thousands of
sites, but that work is now being accelerated by the new centre.
Internet users are being urged to show their loyalty to the king by informing via a new website called protecttheking.net (Thai language), which has been set up by a parliamentary committee. It calls on all citizens to inform on anyone suspected
of insulting or criticising the monarchy.
The new website appears to be part of a concerted effort by the government and its conservative supporters to stifle any debate on the future of the monarchy, before it can gather momentum, our correspondent says.
The committee formalized the Internet Security Operations Centre (ISOC), formerly known as the ‘War Room', to monitor inappropriate content on the internet, with officials from the ICT Ministry and other relevant agencies keeping watch 24 hours a
day. A special call centre is being set up for the public to give information on inappropriate websites.
In the ISOC room, staff will be divided into three sections to monitor three categories of inappropriate websites: (1) those which offend the nation, religion, and monarchy, (2) those which affect tradition and culture, such as Hi5, or
advertise abortion pills, and (3) those which provide gambling and dangerous online games such as the GTA game, said the ICT Minister.
According to the minister, the MICT has requested court orders to close or block 4,818 URLs which include 4,683 web pages offensive to the monarchy, 98 pages offering pornography, and 37 pages containing false advertisements.
The MICT and the Ministry of Culture have also been monitoring the postings of pictures of female students with phone numbers for the purpose of prostitution, and have found an increase in online advertisements for abortion pills and sex gear.
The increasing censorial Prime Minister of Thailand, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has said that he had instructed the Information and Communication Technology Ministry to crack down on websites, which allow students to post messages soliciting sex clients.
Abhisit said the ministry was taking actions against the sites. He said the prostitution by students was influenced by wrong values so there should be campaigns to have students change their values. He said the government is
launching the campaigns through education as well.
Previously the issue had been identified by colleges and universities who sought action against students found to have engaged in direct-sale prostitution via social-network websites like Hi5.
Assoc Prof Sukhum Chaloeysap of Suan Dusit Rajabhat University said all institutes of higher learning should admit the problem existed and join forces to combat it.
Some students are said to have touted sexual services on Hi5, which has links to more than 1,000 other websites that openly post students' pictures, many in uniform, and suggestive messages. He urged the principals of colleges and universities to
Many students' part-time jobs are affected by the economic slowdown, driving some to prostitution to earn extra money, he said.
He blamed the online student sex trade on youth's faulty values and overspending on luxurious and unnecessary items that drove young people to such lengths to get quick cash. He called for strong families and proactive educational and religious
institutions to counter the trend.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned about mounting government threats to media and Internet freedom in Thailand, including legal action against community radio stations and censoring thousands of Web sites.
Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga recently told a parliamentary session that his ministry intends to censor 3,000 to 4,000 Web sites for posting materials considered offensive to the Thai monarchy. The Information Communication and
Technology (ICT) Ministry announced on January 5 that it had shut down 2,300 Web sites for violating the country's strict lese majeste laws.
Piraphan said that he had established 10 different panels to implement the Internet crackdown and that his ministry was working closely with the ICT and Defense ministries. He mentioned in particular that three Thai nationals had been identified
for posting anti-monarchy materials on the Web site Manussaya and that one of the writers has been arrested on lese majeste charges.
Satit Wongnongtaey, a minister in the prime minister's office, proposed taking legal action against five community radio stations he contended were causing unrest through their news reporting. He mentioned specifically the Taxi Lovers Club radio
station situated in Bangkok and four others located in Chiang Mai, Lamphun, and Udon Thani provinces.
The areas are known to be strongholds of former and now exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, political rival to the now incumbent Democrat Party-led coalition. Satit sent a proposal to investigate the stations for instigating unrest to the
government's Public Relations Department's subcommittee on broadcasting and told reporters that the subcommittee must take quick action against them. He did not specify what form that action might take.
Thailand is headed in the same direction as its historically more authoritarian neighbors--including Myanmar, Vietnam and China--in regards to Internet censorship, said Robert Mahoney, CPJ's deputy director: We call on the country's new
democratic government to quickly reverse this worrying trend and instead work toward re-establishing the country as a regional standard-bearer for free expression.
CPJ recently reviewed a copy of draft legislation signed by Piraphan that intends to expand the censorship powers vested in the controversial 2007 Computer Crime Act. According to the draft amendments, ICT ministry officials would no longer be
required to receive court approval before blocking and censoring Web sites. Thai courts approved the ICT Ministry's earlier blockage of 2,300 Web sites on grounds of lese majeste, but officials have since said that the legal process has slowed
their work in censoring the recent proliferation of anti-monarchy materials posted to the Internet.
On January 27, CPJ sent a letter to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva expressing its concerns about Thailand's fast deteriorating media climate.
The latest issue of The Economist will be withheld from distribution in Thailand for the third time in two months because of its coverage of the country's monarchy, the magazine said.
The British magazine's Thai distributor, Asia Books, refused to deliver copies of its Jan. 31 issue because the article might break the country's strict law against insulting the royal family, the magazine said in an email to subscribers.
The Jan. 31 issue contains an article, entitled A sad slide backwards, that criticizes Thailand for alleged abuse of Muslim migrants from Myanmar known as the Rohingya.
Their plight gained international attention after several boats carrying around 1,000 migrants were intercepted in December by the Thai navy. Human rights groups allege that Thai officers detained and beat them before forcing them back to sea in
vessels with no engines and little food or water. Hundreds are believed to have drowned. Thai authorities have repeatedly denied the allegations.
The article's criticism was largely directed at the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Thai military in its handling of the migrants. It made only passing mention of the taboo subject of royal involvement in Thai politics.
Graphic television footage of violent and cruel acts should be banned, a group of angry Thai parents says. Members of the Network of Family Watch and Creative Media are demanding that television stations put a stop to repeated images of horror
that they claim could harm children and instil violent tendencies.
Twenty members of the group submitted an open letter to Thai Broadcast Journalists Association president Korkhet Chanthalertlak urging his association to investigate what the group calls violence-condoning footage.
Campaigner Anya-orn Panichpuengrat said parents were concerned children watching the news would be disturbed by horrific scenes being played and re-played. She said footage aired in recent weeks showing people being beaten and even shot dead
should not have been broadcast. Most of the offending footage was obtained from surveillance cameras. She said ugly scenes were broadcast repeatedly during news segments and it felt as though the violence was never ending.
The campaigners plan to visit television stations to inquire into their reasons for running such footage. Anya-orn said one case involved the shooting to death of a security guard and then a woman by her jealous boyfriend in Prachin Buri. Another
showed a vocational student being gunned down during a fracas connected to inter-school rivalry near Kasetsart University. This week footage of a teenage boy being brutally beaten by a gang of teenagers in Ayutthaya was aired on television
Korkhet said the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association was aware of the potential for problems and would write to television stations to ask for their cooperation in being mindful of the content they broadcast. The association is drafting a code
of ethics for broadcast journalists, he said.
Thailand has been adding more web pages to its extensive blocked list.
On December 4 2008’s official blocklist of 37 are online pharmacies selling morning after pills directed at Thai consumers in Thai.
It looks as if the fundamentalists at the IT ministry, MICT, are making themselves Thailand’s morality police.
January 14, 2009’s MICT blocklist comes as a result of the ministry’s application for court orders to block 408 separate web pages. All blocked pages are videos on video sharing sites.
Most notable is a new video hosted in the Czech Republic, Harry Nicolaides Is a Political Prisoner.
Content previously on YouTube as part of the StopLeseMajeste channel has been diversified to 65 public video-sharing websites, most hosting multiple blocked videos. The sites are located in at least 12 identifiable countries. 25 further YouTube
videos have been blocked as well as 31 YouTube pages in 23 countries. A single page at Google Video is also blocked.
Australia asked Thailand to pardon a writer from Melbourne who received three years in prison for insulting the royal family in three sentences of a novel that sold seven copies.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith made the request in a letter to his Thai counterpart after Harry Nicolaides pleaded guilty this week to defaming the head of state, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and his son.
Now that the legal processes before Thailand’s courts have concluded, Australian officials have advised Thai officials that the Australian government strongly supports Mr. Nicolaides’s pardon application, Smith said in a
The government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, which took power last month after backing a royalist protest group, is cracking down on Web sites that insult the king, a crime punishable by as many as 15 years in prison.
Thailand has received the pardon request from Australia’s government and will process it in a timely manner, Tharit Charungvat, Foreign Ministry spokesman, said.
Thailand's Senate has resolved to set up an extraordinary committee to strictly enforce laws in the name of protection of the monarchy following an increasing number of websites found to be offensive to the royal institution.
The Senate voted 90 to 17 to set up an extraordinary panel to follow up on the enforcement of laws and articles relating to the protection of the monarchy is to be headed by national police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwan.
Currently, there are over 10,000 websites deemed offensive to the monarchy. The Information and Communication (ICT) Ministry has been able to block only 2,000 sites.
The Justice Ministry will coordinate with the Foreign Ministry to launch a campaign among foreigners to educate them about lese majeste laws.
Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga said he would coordinate with the Foreign Ministry to instruct all Thai embassies abroad to launch public relations campaigns about lese majeste laws which impose harsh punishments on those who insult the
Thai police have charged an outspoken academic with insulting the royal family in a book, the accused professor said.
Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a political science professor, said he was formally charged under the kingdom's harsh lese majeste laws protecting the monarchy from defamation.
The academic told AFP he was was charged over the content of my anti-military coup book, A Coup for the Rich. The charges seem to have arisen out of a complaint made by the Chulalongkorn University book shop to the police, said Giles, a Thai national who teaches there.
He has 20 days to make a statement to the police, who will then decide whether to forward the case to the courts for trial.
A court in Thailand has sentenced an Australian author to three years in jail after finding him guilty of insulting the country's royal family.
Appearing in a Bangkok court, Harry Nicolaides, had pleaded guilty to the charges, related to a 2005 novel he authored which reportedly sold just seven copies.
He was convicted under Thailand's lese majeste laws, designed to protect the royal family but which activists say are outdated and stifle free speech.
Passing the court's verdict, the judge initially sentenced Nicolaides to six years in jail, but reduced the sentence to three years because of his guilty plea.
Speaking in court earlier, Nicolaides, who was shackled at the ankles and wore a prison uniform, said he had endured unspeakable suffering since his arrest five months ago and that the case had taken a toll on his health and family.
The case comes as Thai authorities step up prosecutions under the country's controversial laws on lese majeste or insulting the monarchy, which mandates a severe sentence for whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir
to the throne or the regent.
Nicolaides, who lived in Thailand from 2003-2005 and taught in the northern city of Chiang Rai, was arrested in August at Bangkok's international airport as he was about to board a flight home to Melbourne. The author was unaware of a warrant
issued in March for his arrest in connection with his novel, Verisimilitude , rights group Reporters Without Borders said.
Thai police said that they have found another 1,500 web sites that allegedly insult the country's monarchy and have ordered them to be blocked amid an intensifying crackdown.
The announcement comes just days after the government said it had already prevented access to around 2,300 websites under repressive lese majeste laws which protect King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his family.
The laws have been criticised by rights groups and media organisations in recent months, while critics have accused the government of using them to suppress dissenting voices on the Internet.
Police have found up to 1,500 websites containing content that is insulting to the royal family, Lieutenant General Suchart Mueankaoe, commander of Bangkok Metropolitan Police, told reporters.
Lt Gen Suchart said his force was responsible for prosecuting cases of defaming the monarchy no matter where the case originated. Currently there are 17 cases active, out of these eight are still being investigated.
Reporters Without Borders deplores today's arrest of Internet user Suwicha Thakhor on a charge of insulting the monarchy (lese majeste), just one day after Thai Netizen Network, a group that defends online freedom of expression, met with
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and suggested ways to reach a compromise on Internet regulation, including the issue of lese majeste.
This arrest gives the government the opportunity to demonstrate its readiness to maintain a real dialogue by keeping a close watch on the conduct of the investigation, Reporters Without Borders said. We urge the government to do
everything possible to ensure that Thakhor is released as soon as the authorities establish that he has not done anything that violates democratic norms.
The Department of Special Investigations said Thakhor was arrested because his computer's Internet address matched the address from which comments about the king and his aides had been sent. He was picked up by the police while visiting friends
in the provinces. The authorities say they suspect he knew the police were after him and that he left the capital for this reason.
Thakhor, who is being held at Department of Special Investigations headquarters in Bangkok, has denied the charges.
A Thai academic who is facing charges of insulting the monarchy called for a campaign to abolish the law under which he could be jailed for 15 years.
Ji Ungpakorn, a prominent activist and political scientist at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, said police have asked to question him over a book he wrote about Thailand's 2006 military coup.
His case is the latest sign of ideological struggle over the role of the monarchy, a subject that was once taboo. There has been a recent spate of complaints and prosecutions for lese majeste — as the charge is called — and increased
censorship of Web sites allegedly critical of the institution.
Ji said at a news conference that the lese majeste law, which mandates a jail term of three to 15 years for defaming the king, the queen or the heir to the throne, restricts freedom of speech and expression and does not allow for public
accountability and transparency of the institution of the monarchy.
He charged that it is used as a tool by the military, and other authoritarian elites, in order to protect their own interests. He claimed he was being targeted for political reasons because he criticized the military and its coup.
Newly elected Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has promised to take all measures to prevent people from defaming the monarchy.
At the dawn of 2009, many sighed with relief that, for whatever reason, a big political hurdle has been overcome. The new Administration led by Abhisit Vejjajiva, however, has pledged to prioritize suppression of any offence related to defamation
of the monarch.
Many political dissidents have been entangled in l่se majest้ litigation in the past year. Some have been granted bail, including Sondhi Limthongkul, Sulak Sivaraksa, and Veera Musikpong, while others ran away, including Chucheep
Cheevasuth, and Suchart Nagabangsai. This dubious charge was also laid against persons such as Jitra Kotchadet, a union leader, and Chotisak On-soong, a student. A charge against Jonathan Head, BBC correspondent, also raised many eyebrows,
whereas others were arrested and quietly held in custody including Phraya Pichai and Thonchan , the two infamous web bloggers.
But some have already spent part of their lives behind bars including Ms. Daranee Chancherngsilpakul, aka Dar Torpedo, serving 6 years in jail, and Ms. Boonyuen Prasertying, two stars at the Sanam Luang political rallies.
This does not yet include Harry Nicolaides, an Aussie writer. Pending trial, these three alleged offenders have been languishing in jail for months. None of the Thai media has paid the slightest attention to their plight. Unlike many others, they
have been denied bail. It could be said that their cases have already been decided by society.
Thailand has blocked 2,300 Web sites and is establishing a war room for future crackdowns, which critics say threaten free speech.
Authorities are seeking a court order to shut 400 more sites and will spend 45 million baht ($1.3 million) to create a 24-hour center to police Internet material, Information and Communications Technology Minister Ranongrak Suwanchawee said in a
statement posted on the ICT’s Web site.
The ministry is investing a lot of money to buy expensive software to block Web sites, but actually it’s very contrary to international standards, said lawyer Paiboon Amonpinyokeat: The government has to understand the nature of
the Internet and the concept of freedom of speech.
Under the 2007 law passed after the military seized power in a coup, authorities can’t block Web sites without a court order. The law was designed to prevent abuse of power by giving judges the final say on whether to shut down an Internet
site, Paiboon said.
The ministry plans to introduce heavier fines and prison terms for anyone who supposedly insults the king via the Internet, Ranongrak said in the statement. She also plans to target inappropriate online games and casinos. And of course
there are plenty of porn sites on the censored list.
The Thai Journalists Association (TJA) says the year 2008 was the most challenging year for mass media professionals as they faced various forms of intimidation from different interest groups.
The TJA panel on rights, liberties and media reform idntified the 10 most serious media intimidation cases that occurred during 2008:
The murder of two Matichon reporters. Athiwat Chainuwat was gunned down on Aug 1, while Jaruk Rangcharoen was shot dead on Sept 27
Unkind words against political reporters from Samak Sundaravej were a daily dose for those hounding him for news when he was the prime minister
A call from Samak urging journalists to side with the then PPP-led government after anti-government protesters, led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), on Aug 26 laid siege to the state-run NBT television station and later stormed and
occupied the Government House.
Intimidation and physical assaults against journalists covering protest rallies of rival political groups.
Renaming of the state-owned Channel 11 to NBT by the Samak government in a bid to make the station look more independent, but in fact serving as a propaganda tool for the government.
Street protesters' browbeating of television stations on various occasions. Threats to the NBT, a station that was briefly seized by PAD, the surrounding of the TPBS by the pro-PPP Rak Chiang Mai 51 group, and the ASTV station that was attacked
by war weapons.
Lawsuits demanding 100 million baht compensation from two columnists of Krungthepturakij newspaper filed by Ek-Chai Distribution System, operator of Tesco Lotus in Thailand.
Thai Rath newspaper's tragic loss of six staff members in Narathiwat. Chalee Bunsawat, a Narathiwat-based reporter for the newspaper was killed in an insurgent bomb attack. Then, a van carrying 10 members of its newspaper's deep South bureau
and heading for Chalee's funeral in Sungai Kolok district crashed and caught fire, killing five of them at the crash scene and seriously injuring five others.
Banning of several TV broadcast programmes.
The banning of the TJA shirts by Government House media officers. Journalists entering the compound were requested not to wear shirts bearing the message Intimidating Media, Intimidating the People distributed by the TJA on World Press