Anthony Chai is arguably the first person accused of lese majeste while outside Thailand. He is a U.S. citizen accused under Thai law and his case pre-dates that of Joe Gordon. Chai was first detained on suspicion of lese majeste on 9 May 2006.
The World Organization for Human Rights USA has been following his case. According to this organization, in August 2011 Chai filed a suit against “Netfirms, a Canadian web hosting company incorporated in the United States, for releasing personal information to the Thai government. Netfirms’ disclosures allowed Thai officials to identify, detain, and interrogate the plaintiff, Mr. Anthony Chai, both in Thailand and on U.S. soil. These disclosures, without which Mr. Chai would have remained anonymous, resulted in the Thai government charging Mr. Chai with violating a Thai law that restricts free speech – ironically, for comments he wrote online criticizing that very law.”
The suit “alleges that the company’s conduct violated California state law, as well as Constitutional and international human rights law.”
According to the account filed, Chai owned a “computer store in Long Beach, California from which he and his patrons would access and anonymously post comments on a Thai-language pro-democracy website, Manusaya.com, hosted by Netfirms. Many of the anonymous comments expressed concern with Thailand’s lese majesté laws which prohibit any negative statements about the Thai monarchy and provide for severe punishment, including imprisonment for up to fifteen years.” Netfirms is said to have closed the Manusaya site in June 2005. Manusaya is claimed to have been owned by another individual, not Chai.
The suit claims that Chai’s privacy rights were violated. Thai government officials are said to have requested that Netfirms suspend Manusaya’s account. Netfirms is alleged to have done this and “provided Mr. Chai’s IP address and e-mail address to the Thai officials without notice and without his consent.”
The report states that as a “result of this release of Mr. Chai’s confidential personal information to Thai government officials, he was subsequently detained at the Bangkok airport, taken to the Department of Special Investigations, and interrogated about his postings on the website. After finally being released from police custody in Bangkok and returning home to California, Mr. Chai was then interrogated by Thai officials over the course of two days on U.S. soil at a hotel in Hollywood, California. Mr. Chai was later informed by Thai officials that if he returns to Thailand, he will be arrested and charged with violating lese majesté laws.”
According to Chai’s lawyers, there is an active arrest warrant in this case. The complaint lodged with the Californian court is available here as a large PDF.
This is a remarkable account of the impact of lese majeste beyond Thailand’s borders and, presumably of law breaking in the U.S. by Thai officials.
Media accounts of Chai’s case:
Huffington Post, 14 September 2011: “Anthony Chai Lawsuit Against Netfirms.com Involves Interrogation At LAX McDonald’s By Thai Police“
Bangkok Post, 11 September 2011: “A question of freedom of speech?“
Phuket News, 9 September 2011: “Man held for lese majeste“
Bangkok Post, 3 September 2011: “US citizen in lese majeste scandal sues Internet provider“
AFP, 1 September 2011: “U.S. suit challenges Canadian firm on Thai royal insults“
Mediashift, 1 September 2011: “Online Comments Run Afoul of Thailand’s Laws Shielding Royalty from Criticism“
Asia Sentinel, 30 August 2011: “Did Canadian Firm Snitch over Lese-Majeste Charges?“
Asian Correspondent, 30 August 2011: “Foreign web host company ‘snitched’ lese majeste critic to Thai authorities“
arstechnica, 29 August 2011: “Thai censorship critic strikes back at snitch Web host“
World Organization for Human Rights USA, 26 August 2011: “US Citizen Sues Web Hosting Company for Identifying Him to Thai Government“
Reporters Without Borders, 7 May 2010: “US citizen interrogated by Thai officials for his online activities“