Arresting king’s death rumor scapegoats

1 11 2009

Also available as: อัพเดทเพิ่มเติม: แพะถูกจับกรณีข่าวลือเรื่องกษัตริย์สิ้นพระชนม์

The Nation has a breaking report on the arrest of two persons related to the death rumors about the king. However, the report has confused names and seems to list the wrong company. PPT will wait for a more reliable report before posting further on this.

Update 1: We have now had a chance to look around some more on this story, and a a few more stories are available. Bangkok Pundit has posted a summary of some. Matichon reports the arrested persons as 47 year-old Miss Thiranan Vipuchanun (น.ส.ธีรนันต์ วิภูชนิน) who is said to be a former director of a finance and securities trading firm (อดีตกรรมการผู้จัดการบริษัทหลักทรัพย์แห่งหนึ่ง – Bangkok Pundit says it was UBS) and 37 year-old Mr. Khatha Pachachirayapong (นายคทา ปาจริยพงษ์), a n employee in the trading a securities trading firm  (พนักงานฝ่ายการตลาด บริษัทเงินทุนหลักทรัพย์แห่งหนึ่ง). Several reports having him working for Seamico Securities but Reuters seems to have it right as KT Zmico Securities.

Reuters reports that Thiranan stated after her arrest: “What I’ve done was translating documents from foreign media Bloomberg,” and she states: “I got it from Internet…. Everybody on that day wanted to know what caused the market to fall. The stock market had already dropped and we did the translation in the evening.” Bangkok Pundit says she posted the translation to Prachatai’s web board.

Khatha is said to have posted the same or similar message to Fa Diew Kan’s web board.

Bangkok Pundit states that both have been charged under the notorious Computer Crimes Act. MCOT English News reports that Thiranan was “arrested with a warrant charging her with feeding false information through a computer system, which undermined Thailand’s national security or which caused panic among the public.”

The Democrat Party-led government regularly uses charges of acts against “national security” to arrest and restrict people. By doing this, it can claim to be interested in the rule of law when, in fact, it is just a repressive and authoritarian government attempting to bolster its own hold on political power.

Reuters also says that police and other authorities are continuing investigations, hunting rumor mongers. It states that the “Securities and Exchange Commission has said it is seeking trading information on two accounts from two foreign brokers, Credit Suisse in Hong Kong … and UBS in Singapore…, in connection with the market plunge and was also looking at one domestic account.” Reuters adds that the “Department of Special Investigation, which comes under the Justice Ministry, is also conducting an inquiry into possible stock trading irregularities, which it expects to complete in late November.”

Bangkok Pundit comments on the case and justifiably asks several questions: “Is translating a Bloomberg news article enough? What about the news organizations who also reported what Bloomberg reported on then? Won’t they also be charged? What about the Bloomberg journalist in Hong Kong? We haven’t been given a timeline of when those posts were made yet, but this just sounds bizarre. Well bizarre unless this is just a cynical warning to commentators at Prachatai and Fah Diew Gun (both anti-coup, discuss issues related to the monarchy, more closely aligned with the red shirts, etc.).”

Update 2: International television and radio are now reporting these cases as if they are lese majeste case, referring to the so-called exalted status of the king and so on. While lese majeste cases are inevitably political, these reports are missing some of the basic issues: the Abhisit government has itself politicized the monarchy in this instance and is demonstrating to the international community that Thailand will be in deep political trouble when the king does die.


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