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9th April
2008
  

Respect for the Law?...

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Accusations of lèse majesté in Thailand

Jonathan Head A police officer filed a criminal complaint yesterday seeking to have a journalist for the BBC charged with insulting His Majesty the King.

Pol Lt-Col Wattanasak Mungkandee said he filed a complaint against British reporter Jonathan Head in connection with remarks he allegedly made when moderating a panel discussion at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on Dec 13 entitled Coup, Capital and Crown. Lese majeste carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Pol Lt-Col Wattanasak said the police's Crime Suppression Division will have to translate the evidence he presented to see whether it would pursue the case.

Update: Charged

13th April 2008

The charge against Jonathan Head was filed on 8 April 2008 by Pol Lt Wattanasak Mungkitjakarndee, Investigation Officer of Bang Mot Police Station, seconded to Phaholyothin Police Station. Pol Lt Wattanasak alleged that during the FCCT seminar Head used phases that constitute a violation of the laws on lèse majesté.

Pol Lt Wattanasak then gathered evidence in the form of a CD of the seminar, an English transcript of Head's speech, and a Thai translation and handed this to Pol Maj Boonlert Kalayanamit, an Investigation Officer at the Crime Suppression Division. Pol Lt Wattanasak has also filed a similar charge against the Committee of the FCCT.

Taking a Stand

See full article from Prachatai

A Thai man and his female friend have been charged by police with lèse majesté for not standing for the royal anthem at a movie theatre in Bangkok late last year.

On April 5, 2008, Pathumwan District Police called to Chotisak Onsung and his friend, asking them to visit the police station to hear the charge for the offence alleged by Navamintr Witthayakul who was among the cinema audience.

A panel under the National Police Committee will make the final decision on whether to pursue the case or not.

On September 20, 2007, Chotisak and his friend went to a cinema in Central World shopping complex in downtown Bangkok. They were urged by Navamintr to stand up for the royal anthem which precedes every movie shown in Thailand's cinemas, and they had a heated argument with the man.

They claimed that they were physically abused. Afterwards they filed complaints at a police station against Navamintr for verbal and physical abuse, damage to personal property and coercion, while Navamintr filed a lèse majesté complaint against them.

 

4th September
2008
  

Verisimilitude...

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Australian author arrested in Thailand for lèse majesté

Verisimilitude booik An Australian writer has been arrested in Thailand and faces a lese-majeste charge for publishing a novel deemed defamatory to the country's royal family, police and the Australian embassy said.

An embassy official identified the man from Melbourne and police named him as Harry Nicolaides, who was unaware there was an arrest warrant out for him when he tried to fly out from Bangkok to Australia.

An arrest warrant was issued in March for a book he wrote in 2005 deemed defamatory to the crown prince, Police Lieutenant-Colonel Boonlert Kalayanamit told Reuters.

He has been charged with lese-majeste, a crime that can carry a 15-year jail sentence in Thailand, and was being held at a remand prison pending further interviews, Boonlert said.

Nicolaides, a regular visitor to Thailand and briefly a resident, when he taught English and wrote for Australian newspapers, had not been granted bail, police said.

Police identified the novel in question as Verisimilitude , described  as a trenchant commentary on the political and social life of contemporary Thailand.

 

19th November
2008
  

Update: Hardly Democratic...

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Opposition party propose an extension of lese majeste laws

Thai Democrat party logo A group of MPs from the opposition Democrat Party have proposed a draft legislation that would penalise people making defamatory remarks or contemptuous tones against the monarchy on the Internet or via computers.

The proposed law would also punish those who wrongly accuse or attempt to frame up others of such a wrongdoing.

Under the proposed law, anyone putting inaccurate content about the monarchy on the Internet or a computer system faces a jail term of between three to 20 years or a fine ranging from Bt200,000 (£3800) to Bt800,000 (£15,400).

Those uploading defamatory or contemptuous content about the monarchy face an imprisonment of five to 20 years or a fine of between Bt300,000 to Bt800,000.

The law will also punish anyone falsely accusing others of such wrongdoings, with imprisonment of three to 20 years and a fine ranging from Bt200,000 to Bt800,000.

The law also seeks to punish people hiring others to do the job for them, the Internet service provider or computer system administrator who fails to cooperate, as well as repeat offenders.

Based on article from bangkokpost.com

Critics have blasted the Democrat proposal.

Boonsong Chaisinghananon, a Silapakorn University philosophy lecturer, said the amendments were more likely to serve or be exploited by the Democrats and the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which has often accused others of insulting the monarchy.

The proposers rejected a political movitation behind the amendments and said the ICT minister appoint military personnel to help track internet violators.

 

23rd November
2008
  

Update: Unread and Unfree...

Australian author still held in Thai prison for lèse majesté

Verisimilitude booik Harry Nicolaides is languishing in Bangkok Remand Centre, yet to face trial, over a few sentences in an unread novel.

On August 31 this year, Nicolaides was at Bangkok airport waiting to board a flight to Melbourne when he was detained by Thai police on charges of lese majeste, the crime of insulting the monarchy. The arrest warrant alleged Nicolaides had insulted the Thai royal family in his second book, Verisimilitude , a novel Nicolaides self-published in Thailand in 2005.

For the past 82 days, Nicolaides has been held at the Bangkok Remand Prison, where he shares one toilet with up to 60 other prisoners, including men accused of violent and sexual crimes. He was only formally charged yesterday.

He has retracted the book and publicly apologised to the royal family and the Thai people for any offence caused by his reckless choice of words, but bail has been denied three times.

Few novels as commercially unsuccessful as Verisimilitude — only seven copies were sold — can have caused so much strife for their authors. The alleged offence is believed to concern three sentences in the book in which the narrator refers to rumours concerning the romantic life of an unspecified crown prince.

It is simply one of the most bizarre cases I've ever come across, says Arnold Zable, author and president of the Melbourne branch of International PEN, an organisation that campaigns on behalf of writers in detention around the world.

Nicolaides' case is more unusual than the average unusual case, says Dr David Streckfuss, a historian from the University of Wisconsin who lives in Thailand and specialises in the country's lese majeste laws: It's not clear that any Thai ever read the book in the first place.

When he published Verisimilitude three years ago, Nicolaides took the precaution of sending his book to the National Library, the Thai Ministry of Culture, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Bureau of the Royal Household to check that its contents were acceptable. He received no response. When his book was released no one reviewed it and hardly anyone read it. Only 50 copies were printed. There was nothing to suggest that the novel, which was only published in English, hadn't sunk directly into deep obscurity.

But Thai authorities issued a warrant for Nicolaides' arrest on March 17 this year. He was not told he was under investigation. Between March and August, Nicolaides left and re-entered Thailand five times with no sign of trouble. When he was pulled aside by police at passport control on the night of August 31 he was, his brother, Forde Nicolaides, says, alarmed. When Australian embassy staff arrived and explained the allegations, he was absolutely astonished.

Update: Bail Refused Again

11th December 2008. See article from prachatai.com

Reporters Without Borders repeated its call for the release of Australian author Harry Nicolaides, facing a charge of the crime of lese-majesty, after he was yesterday refused bail by the Bangkok criminal court for the fourth time.

Nicolaides, aged 41, who was formally charged on 21 November 2008, has been held at the capital's remand prison since 31 August. The charge relates to his book, Verisimilitude, which came out in 2005 in which he referred to the way an unamed Crown Prince treated one of his mistresses. Only 50 copies were ever printed.

 

25th December
2008
  

Update: Head Accuser...

Thai Policeman continues to accuse BBC reporter of Lese Majeste

Jonathan Head The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the ongoing legal harassment of BBC correspondent Jonathan Head. Police Lt. Col. Wattanasak Mungkandee filed a third criminal complaint this year against Head on December 23, alleging he had insulted the Thai monarchy in his reporting.

The latest charges are related to a December 3 article in which Head speculated that the royal palace and figures close to the palace may have provided tacit backing to anti-government protest group the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which laid siege to Bangkok's main international and domestic airports from November 26 to December 3.

Thai law allows any citizen to bring complaints against anyone they believe has insulted the country's monarchy. Wattanasak has brought all three complaints against Head in his personal capacity rather than as a senior ranking police official, according to Head. Violations of lese majeste laws are a criminal offense in Thailand, punishable by three to 15 years imprisonment.

It is time for prosecutors and investigators in Thailand to immediately drop these outrageous and punitive charges against our colleague Jonathan Head, said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator: Head's reporting has raised important questions about Thailand's deteriorating political situation and he should be allowed to report without fear of official reprisals.

Local and foreign journalists have been under attack this year as a political crisis led to three changes of government in as many months. Head, a well-respected figure in Thai journalism has specifically been targeted. The first complaint against Head was filed on April 9, and was related to comments the reporter made in December 2007 while moderating another event at the FCCT titled Coup, Capital, and Crown . The discussion touched on the monarchy's role in Thai society in light of the 2006 military coup. The second complaint against Head, filed on May 30, included charges that his reporting over a two-year period had intended to criticize the monarchy several times and that his writings have damaged and insulted the reputation of the monarchy, according to an English-language translation of the charges obtained by CPJ.

The May 30 complaint against Head cited 11 different articles from the BBC's Web site, several of which he did not author. Thai authorities have in recent months cracked down on hundreds of Web sites for posting materials considered offensive to the monarchy. Both the complaints are still pending.

 

11th January
2009
  

Offsite: L่se Majest้...

Thai society passes harsh judgement

Abhisit 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.

...Read full article

 

14th January
2009
  

Update: Insulting Law...

Academic calls for abolition of L่se Majest้ law

Coup for the Rich book 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.

 

17th January
2009
  

Update: Watching Thailand...

Another internet user arrested over L่se Majest้

Thai Netizen Network 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.

 

19th January
2009
  

Update: 5 Months Per Reader...

Australian author jailed for 3 years for l่se majest้

Verisimilitude booik 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.

 

21st January
2009
  

Update: 10,000 Websites...

Ever more claims of l่se majest้

Coup for the Rich book Thailand's Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga said on 19 January that websites containing information considered as lese majeste are increasing, media reports said.

The "Bangkok Post" quoted Pirapan as saying that more than 10,000 such websites have contents that allegedly insult the Thai royal family.

Based on article from bangkokpost.com

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.

 

25th January
2009
  

Update: An Education...

Thailand to launch PR campaign to 'educate' foreigners about its lese majeste law

Harry Nicolaides 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 monarchy.

 

26th January
2009
  

Update: Pardon Harry...

Australia asks Thailand to pardon Harry Nicolaides

Harry Nicolaides 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 statement.

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.

 

27th January
2009
  

Update: Safety First...

Another issue of The Economist withdrawn from Thailand

Economist magazine Another edition of UK-based current affairs magazine The Economist has been withdrawn in Thailand, amid local fears over its coverage of the royal family.

The Economist's Thai distributor held back Friday's issue - which contains an article about an Australian writer who was jailed for allegedly slandering the monarchy.

Last month another edition was banned because of an article questioning the Thai king's role in public life.

The Economist sent an e-mail to its Asia subscribers stating: This week our distributors in Thailand have decided not to deliver the Economist in light of our coverage relating to the Thai monarchy.

 

1st February
2009
  

Update: Thailand Cast Adrift...

Third issue of The Economist withdrawn from Thailand

Economist magazine 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.

 

9th February
2009
  

Update: PEN Pals...

British professor flees Thailand after lese majeste charges

Coup for the Rich book 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.

 

7th March
2009
  

Update: Unmoderated...

Office of Thai online news website, Prachatai, raided by police

Prachatai logo 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.

 

2nd April
2009
  

Update: Expressing an Opinion...

The latest amongst a dozen cases of lese majeste

Thailand flag 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.

 

4th April
2009
  

Update: A Bad Image...

Than internet user jailed for 10 years for posting insulting pictures of king

Thailand flag 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.

Now up to 7000 blocked pages or websites

Based on article from prachatai.com

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.

 

15th April
2009
  

Update: Immoderate...

Web forum moderator faces 50 years for not deleting posts quickly enough

Prachatai logo 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.

 

17th April
2009
  

Another Economist Goes Missing...

More self censorship of The Economist magazine in Thailand

The Economist magazine cover 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.

 

30th April
2009
  

Update: International Criticism...

Human rights groups call on Thailand to revise lese majeste laws

Reporers without Borders logo 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.

This situation has gone unresolved far too long.

 

27th June
2009
  

Update: Secret Trial...

Amnesty International criticises Thailand for secret lese majeste trial of red shirt protestor

Amnesty logo 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.

 

11th November
2009
  

Update: Thai Censorship Makes the News...

Thai politicians unimpressed by Times interview of Thaksin

Times Online logo 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 Security.

 

20th March
2010
  

Update: Hidden Economy...

The Economist pulls another issue from distribution in Thailand

economist thailand One of the world's most popular English-language news publications will not be distributed in Thailand this week because of an article on the nation's monarchy.

In an email issued to subscribers, the UK-based magazine The Economist, said that due to the sensitive nature of the publication's coverage of the Thai monarchy, the March 20th edition will not be distributed in the South East Asian country. There were no indications that the online edition of The Economist would be affected.

The article in question examines concerns in Thailand over the question of potential royal succession and how it relates to recent political unrest in the country.

Friday's self-censorship by The Economist marks the fourth time since late 2008 that the publication has been pulled from circulation in the Thai kingdom over a story about the nation's monarchy.

 

17th April
2010
  

Update: Foreign Correspondent Under Fire...

Thailand complains about Australian programme

foreign correspondent logoThailand has protested to the Australian government over the airing of a documentary critical of the Thai royal family and warned that the broadcast could affect ties between the nations.

A senior representative from the Thai embassy met with officials from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs o express his concern at the programme, Foreign Correspondent , aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

The concern is that it might affect the good relations between Thailand and Australia, especially the people to people relations, Saksee Phromyothi, minister-counsellor at the Royal Thai Embassy, told AFP: We consider this an issue matter of national security... because the royal family, the monarchy, in our constitution is above politics.

Thailand's ambassador designate Kriangsak Kittichaisaree has also written to ABC managing director Mark Scott to complain about the programme which could breach Thailand's lese-majeste laws which prohibit criticism of the royals: I regret that an organisation of the ABC's stature has lowered its own standard by airing the said documentary which is presented in a manner no different from tabloid journalism .

A spokesman for Australia's Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed that Thai embassy officials had complained about the ABC programme but said: The Australian government does not and cannot control content run by Australian media organisation .

 

21st June
2010
  

Updated: Crime Prevention and Eradication...

Thailand approves creation of a new body of internet censors

Thailand flagThe Thai cabinet has approved the creation of a new cyber crime agency to stamp out online criticism of the revered monarchy.

The government, which has blocked tens of thousands of web pages in recent years for insulting the royal family, said the main task of the Bureau of Prevention and Eradication of Computer Crime would be to prevent criticism of the monarchy.

Under the kingdom's strict lese majeste rules, insulting the monarchy or a member of the royal family can result in jail terms of up to 15 years. Anyone can file a lese majeste complaint, and police are duty-bound to investigate it.

And under Thailand's computer crime law, introduced in 2007, acts of defamation and posting false rumours online are punishable by five years in jail and a fine of 100,000 baht.

Thai authorities had already been closely scrutinising online comments about the monarchy since the Red Shirt campaign. Campaigning for changes in Thai democracy is seen by the Thai authorities as very close to criticism of the monarchy.

Update: Blocking list now 113,000 websites!

21st June 2010. Based on article from advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org

On May 9, Thai Information Ministry MICT and the Thai emergency law enforcers CRES admitted to blocking at least 50,000 websites and adding 500 more per day. Thai anti-censorship campaigners, FACT's, extensive testing across Thai ISPs has revealed that ISPs are blocking at least a further 15,000 bringing the total to more than 65,000. In the second week of May, CRES announced blocking of 770 new websites; on May 26, CRES announced blocking of 1,150 more. If we add these new figures to 46,000 websites, Thailand is blocking at least 113,000 websites!

On June 17, Thailand's new ICT minister announced a blacklist of 200 persons banned from posting to the Internet. This restriction was undefined but presumably all sites bearing these names will be blocked. Although the names of former PM office minister Jakrapob Penkair and Chulalongkorn University professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn, both in exile over lèse majesté charges, are known to be on the blacklist, the rest of the list is secret.

Included in the announcement of the blacklist on June 17, government is threatening to take charge of websites it doesn't like!

 

20th August
2010
  

Update: 110,000 Websites Blocked...

Thailand becoming one of the least free states in the region

wsj logoCriticism over Thailand's efforts to curb political debate online is mounting as the government restricts thousands of websites following deadly protest clashes earlier this year.

Thai authorities say they have blocked at least 40,000 Web pages this year, according to the government's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, which monitors the Internet. Free-speech activists say authorities are blocking at least 110,000 sites, based on government disclosures and spot checks online.

Many of the sites feature criticism of the government or debates about Thailand's revered monarchy, a taboo subject here. As a result, some advocates say Thailand—long seen as a relative haven of free speech in Asia—is becoming one of the least-free states in a region that includes China and Myanmar, when it comes to discourse online

...Read the full article

Update: Wikileaks Blocked

20th August 2010. Based on article from google.com

Thai authorities have used their emergency powers to block domestic access to the WikiLeaks whistleblower website on security grounds, a government official said Wednesday.

The order came from the government unit set up to oversee the response to political unrest that rocked the nation's capital earlier this year, a spokeswoman for the Information and Communication Technology Ministry said.

Access to this website has been temporarily suspended under the 2005 emergency decree, she said.

Notes

The Wikileaks block has yet to filter through, and for the moment, Wikileaks continues to be available to some in Thailand.

There is speculation that this action is more about toadying to the US who are pissed off about the Afghan War leaks.

WikiLeaks has launched ThaiLeaks, a web page of downloadable ‘magnet links’ to Thailand news items. The whistleblower announced the launch of the new page today on Twitter. It said even if the new page is blocked citizens will still be able to access information through the links which can be sent in e-mails, instant messages, even printed on paper, in order to keep information flowing.

 

29th August
2010
  

Update: Freedom Deteriorating in Thailand...

Media and internet under duress

SEAPA logoPress freedom in Thailand, especially for broadcast media such as community radio stations and Web boards, has palpably deteriorated over the past six years, lamented Roby Alampay, outgoing executive director of the Southeast Asean Press Alliance (Seapa).

The Internet over the past six years has played a crucial role in allowing people to debate and air their views, Alampay said, adding that things had become more personal when users began facing censorship, state monitoring and the threat of prosecution over content in their e-mails or social networking sites. Print media fortunately remain very vibrant and free, he added.

Alampay told The Nation that Thais have to be mindful about the growing legal constraints that curb freedom of press and expression.

Six years ago, Thaksin Shinawatra was no friend of the media , but was put in check by the courts, Alampay said. Now, after political and military upheaval, there is Abhisit Vejjajiva.

You have a prime minister who benefited from political and military upheavals, and he says all the right things about press freedom, but in the background, there's a lot of trouble, he said.

For example, he said, the current Computer Crime Act was dangerous because the authorities were exploiting its harsh penalties and weaknesses. Then there's the spate of arrests under the lese majeste law.

When Abhisit first came to power, he told society not to worry about the law , but Alampay said things have turned out to be quite disappointing and unfortunately got worse under the current administration.

 

28th September
2010
  

Update: Press Criticism...

Prachatai news website editor arrested on lese majeste charges

Prachatai logoThe Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the arrest of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, editor of the popular Thailand news website Prachatai, on charges of insulting the royal family.

Prachatai said police at Suvarnabhumi Airport detained Chiranuch as she arrived from Hungary, where she had attended an Internet freedom conference. Police confirmed the arrest in comments to Matichon, a Thai-language daily newspaper.

Her arrest stems from comments posted to Prachatai in 2008 that were allegedly in violation of the Computer Crime Act and lese majeste laws.

We urge Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to release journalist Chiranuch Premchaiporn immediately and unconditionally, said Shawn W. Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. The government should stop using anti-crown charges to suppress legitimate criticism.

 

5th February
2011
  

Update: Unmoderated Danger...

Thai webmaster on trial for other people's postings on the forum

Prachatai logo The trial has started of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, executive director of the Thailand-based independent news Web site Prachatai. She stands accused of 10 different violations of the country's draconian 2007 Computer Crime Act (CCA), each of which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The case centers on comments posted by users of a Prachatai Web board that authorities have charged were defamatory of the Thai monarchy--a criminal offense under Thai law. Chiranuch has been charged under the CCA's Section 15, which pertains to the liability of online intermediaries, including Internet service providers (ISPs) and webmasters.

Prosecution witness Aree Jivorarak, head of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology's (MICT) said in his testimony that when his office brought the comments to Chiranuch's attention she immediately deleted them in her capacity as the Web board's moderator.

Chiranuch told CPJ that Prachatai's online forums received thousands of comments daily in 2008--when the alleged CCA violations occurred--and that it was impossible to police instantly every comment that was posted.

Defense witnesses are expected to argue in upcoming hearings that the CCA's Section 15 is out of step with laws governing intermediary liability in many Western countries and that the Thai law applies unreasonable obligations to webmasters.

 

8th March
2011
  

Update: Letter of Allegation...

The UN criticises Thailand for prosecution of webmaster over forum contents

UN logo Two United  Special Rapporteurs have sent Thailand a letter of allegation concerning the case of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, the webmaster on trial in Bangkok for charges of lese-majesty and computer crime.

According to the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekkaggya in her annual report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, she sent the letter together with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, on October 1, 2010.

The February 28 report quotes a reply from the government of Thailand that the case was brought on the basis that views that are disrespectful of the monarchy, or advocate hatred or hostile feelings towards this important national institution, or those which incite hatred or violence are generally unacceptable in the Thai society .

In a second letter sent in February, the government asked the U.N. rights experts not to prejudge the decision of the court hearing the case.

The police charged Chiranuch not because of anything that she did or said herself but for comments posted on her independent news website, Prachatai, by users. She has been held criminally liable as the site administrator. The Bangkok-based Internet news site has since been forced to close its web board because of fears that it or its users could be subject to further criminal actions.

Wong Kai Shing, executive director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, welcomed the U.N. experts' intervention and said that it showed that the case is attracting more and more interest globally, because people around the world are concerned about the use of Thailand's draconian lese-majesty and computer crime laws to stifle legitimate debate.

Wong said:

At a time that the representative of Thailand to the Human Rights Council is holding the council's presidency, it is highly embarrassing that his government is prosecuting someone for speech and computer offences that she did not commit.

The case cannot in any way be justified in terms of international law. The AHRC also completely rejects the government's arguments that it can be justified on particular cultural or national grounds.

The public prosecutor must withdraw the case.

 

4th May
2011
  

Update: Unmentionable censorship...

Thailand set to ban mere mention of the monarchy during election campaign

Thai Election Commission logoThailand's Election Commission (EC) authorities have banned discussion of the monarchy in campaigning for the first national election since the political violence erupted in 2010.

The poll's body has not revealed the details of the new rules, which were announced at a meeting with political representatives.

The EC will discuss details of the ban later, said Apichart Sukananond, the body's chairman, suggesting that parties who disobey the rules may be dissolved and their leaders may be banned for five years.

Debate about the role of the monarchy is a taboo in Thailand as the country prepares its national election in early July.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva supported the ban stating that the monarchy was above politics and conflicts , while the main opposition party Puea thai pledged to respect the rules.

 

31st May
2012

 Update: Dangerous Discussions...

Widespread criticism of Thai conviction of webmaster over forum posting by somebody else

Prachatai logo There has been worldwide criticism of the Thai authorities over a court ruling that penalized a webmaster for criticisms of the monarchy posted to a Bangkok-based website.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn, who manages web content for Prachatai, violated the Computer Crimes Act because she failed to quickly erase content deemed critical of the monarchy, Bangkok's Criminal Court said. The court fined her and imposed an eight-month jail sentence that it suspended for one year.

The ruling is a serious threat to the future of the Internet in Thailand, Ross LaJeunesse, Google's head of public policy in the Asia-Pacific region, said in a statement:

The precedent is bad for Thai businesses, users and the innovative potential of Thailand's Internet economy.

Telephone companies are not penalized for things people say on the phone and responsible website owners should not be punished for comments users post on their sites. But Thailand's Computer Crimes Act is being used to do just that.

The sentence is the latest in a growing number of convictions for royal criticism that has prompted academics to call for revisions to the lese-majeste law, a move the country's major political parties have denounced. The U.S., European Union and United Nations asked Thailand to respect freedom of speech following convictions last year.

Update: Appeal fails

10th November 2013. See  article from  en.rsf.org

Reporters without Borders logo Reporters Without Borders condemns today's decision by a Bangkok appeal court to uphold Prachatai news website editor Chiranuch Premchaiporn's May 2012 conviction on a charge of lese-majeste for failing to remove anti-monarchist comments from the site quickly enough. Reporters Without Borders said:

This ruling sets a dangerous precedent for editors, who could now be held responsible for the comments that visitors post on their sites. The judicial system's obstinacy is appalling, but the fight for freedom of information must not be abandoned. We will keep on condemning use of lese-majeste charges to persecute critics of the monarchy.

The court also upheld the eight-month suspended prison sentence that Chiranuch received at the original trial, arguing that, as an experienced journalist, she should have known that criminals often use the Internet to attack the monarchy and that it is every Thai citizen's duty to defend the royal family.

 

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