SEAPA on Chiranuch trial and what it reveals

16 02 2011

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance has a story posted on the implications seen so far of the trial of Chiranuch Premchaiporn on charges related to lese majeste and the Computer Crimes Act. SEAPA is a regional organization promoting and protecting press freedom in Southeast Asia. Its member in Thailand is the Thai Journalists’ Association.

SEAPA comments on the prosecution’s presentation of five of its nine witnesses. It says that the trial has so far “highlighted how authorities, particularly the Ministry of Information and Computer Technology (MICT), defined lese majeste and online intermediary liability, and the MICT’s procedures on the handling of online messages accused of containing contents defamatory to Thailand’s monarchy.”

In essence, what has been shown is that the authorities believe that “lese majeste online did not necessarily mean outright defamation of the monarch or the royal family but even the mere allusion or references to them would suffice for liability.” This included interpreting “certain phrases and even certain pronouns in the messages in question as alluding to members of the royal family.” Further, “even the retelling of certain factual accounts of the royals’ action, in this case, the posting of a message discussing the attendance of the Queen to a funeral of a member of the Yellow Shirts in 2008, could constitute lese majeste just because of the perceived danger it would pose to society.”

The ministry revealed that it is “compelled to prosecute when lese majeste was involved.” Apparently this includes the supposition that the monarchy is being alluded to in certain messages. Ironically, MICT seems exempted from the obligation to remove “offending ” messages as the ministry could not take down links to online messages from its own website. “Earlier, the defense lawyers noted that the MICT website provides links to online contents that have lese majeste materials.”

The prosecution resumes its case on 1 September with the defense team getting four days starting 11 October.


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