Questioning arrests and repression

10 11 2009

Prachatai (10 November 2009) has a post regarding Thai Netizen Network’s statement (“Request for Clarification Regarding The Arrests of Internet Users”; see it here also แถลงการณ์ เรื่อง การร้องขอความชัดเจนกรณีใช้ พ.ร.บ.คอมพิวเตอร์ จับกุมผู้ใช้เน็ตในเดือนตุลาคม 2552) demanding that authorities clarify events surrounding “the recent arrests of internet users, including Nat Sattayapornpisut in whose case the authorities are asked to disclose the means of accessing e-mail accounts and the law that entitled them to do so, ‘since this matter may have violated people’s right to privacy and freedom to communicate’.”

PPT pastes in the TNN statement:

Pursuant to the following cases (bold items highlighted by Thai Netizen Network):

1. On 13 October 2009, Department of Special Investigation (DSI) brought Nat Sattayapornpisut, 27, who has been charged with lèse majesté, to the Court to request initial detention. The request to the Court revealed that DSI had earlier requested permission from the court to access information in the e-mail account of one Emilio Esteban, a 46 year-old Briton living in Spain, who has been publishing contents deemed offensive to the throne on his weblog. Police investigation revealed that during the period of 21-23 July 2009, Nat e-mailed links to offensive 3 clips to Emilio, which were the same clips that are published on his weblog. Subsequently, DSI requested arrest warrant from the Criminal Court. (reference: ASTV Manager newspaper, 15 October 2009 –

2. In late October and early November 2009, the police arrested 3 suspects with the charge of violating Clause 14 of the Computer Crime Act, i.e. “bringing into the computer system such false computer information as may damage national security or cause panic among the populace.” The arrests were made after the spread of rumors in the Stock Exchange of Thailand caused investor panic and the market to plunge between 13-15 October 2009 (reference: Kom Chad Leuk newspaper, 3 November 2009 –รวบเสี่ยโต๊ะสนุกชลผู้ ต้องหาทุบหุ้นอีก.html)

Thai Netizen Network is of the opinion that the authorities’ access to Mr. Emilio’s e-mail in the first case, and the investigation and prosecution process of suspects in the second, may be an abuse of power and misuse of the Computer Crime Act in ways that violated the right to privacy and freedom of communication, which are protected by virtue of Clause 35 and 36 in the Constitution of Thailand.

In addition, the arrest of 3 suspects in the second case may be the case of suppressing people’s rights and freedom of communication, since the suspects may not know whether the rumor being disseminated was true or false, and he or she may not have intended to harm national security or cause panic. We believe that the only case which may prove that the suspects willfully disseminated false rumors is if they were part of a concerted share manipulation rings, which is a criminal offense under the Securities Act.

Given the aforementioned situation, Thai Netizen Network has the following requests to all relevant authorities:

1. We ask that the authorities disclose the means of accessing Mr. Emilio’s e-mail account and the law that entitled the authorities to do so, since this matter may have violated people’s right to privacy and freedom to communicate;

2. We ask that the authorities disclose the approach they are using in the investigation of share manipulation case, so as not to cause undue panic among Internet users, and be mindful of the people’s rights to expression and communication as guaranteed by the Constitution;

3. We ask that the authorities attempt to arrest the real culprits, not information intermediaries or service providers, since prosecuting intermediaries will result in numerous unwanted economic, social, and cultural consequences. In addition, it will make the arrest of real criminals ever more difficult and cumbersome to undertake, which will further hurt public interest.

Lastly, we would like to call on all mass media and the public to jointly monitor the government’s use of power, and to join us in calling for the reform of Computer Crime Act, especially Clause 14 which is worded so vaguely that it can easily be abused for political gain and suppressing people’s rights and freedoms. We also call for the passage of the law to protect private information, to help public officials and every party involved to distinguish between citizens who merely exercise their right to free expression and criminals who used computers to commit crimes, more correctly and clearly than ever.

With confidence in the right, freedom, and integrity of all citizens,

PPT fully supports the statement. The continued and deepening surveilance of email, the web and other media is cause for considerable concern. Based on all previous evidence, we doubt the present government sees any of this as a problem. Indeed, they seem to congratualte themselves on their increased capacity to censor and repress.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal (9 November 2009: “Taking Stock of Bangkok”) has an editorial on the recent arrests and health rumors witch hunt.

Noting that the 2006 military coup has resulted in “Years of political instability and crippling street protests and violence” and now “some of the most insidious changes … now revealing themselves, such as the effects of the very first law the junta’s assembly passed after taking power, the Computer Crimes Act.”

The editorial also notes the equally insidious use of lese majeste laws.

On the recent health rumor arrests, the WSJ states: “We don’t know whether any of these people violated Thai laws. But we do know that their arrest sends a powerful message to all Thais about the risks they face for posting information online. This is stifling not only to political discussion, but also detrimental to investors at home and abroad who rely on that information to make investment decisions.” And it adds: “Many analysts say that the stock market dip in October took place because of an information vacuum about the health of the King; in such an environment, rumors spread quickly. But the solution is to have more information, not less.”



%d bloggers like this: