With 3 short updates: Monarchy, Prem, lese majeste

26 08 2011

There are a series of reports that relate to lese majeste and monarchy in the media. PPT links to them here.

Prem Tinsulanonda

The first story is a short one in The Nation that states:

Police took some ten red-shirt people into custody before freeing them after they rallied in front the Si Sao Theves residence of Privy Council President Gen Prem Tinsulanonda. The people were not dressed in red shirts but they admitted to police at that they were red-shirt people. Patrol policemen took the people to the Samsen police station for questioning and taking their photos for records. They were freed without being charged.

It is unclear to PPT exactly what the story implies. It is Prem’s birthday on 26 August and there was an earlier report that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra wished to “pay her respects” to Prem. Perhaps these multi-color (?) red shirts were seeking to protest that visit?

The second story concerns Anthony Chai, a U.S. citizen charged under Thai law. PPT had an earlier post in 2010 about this case. The World Organization for Human Rights USA has an update. It seems that Chai has 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.

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.”

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.

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.

The third story is short and depressing and from the Bangkok Post. Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung has again stated that the Puea Thai government will act much like the previous Abhisit Vejjajiva government on lese majeste. Most worryingly, Chalerm said the “government will set up a war room to curb the activities of websites with lese majeste content.” Chalerm has stated: “I won’t let lese majeste websites stay on line during this government.”

PPT can’t help wondering if the new government is going to have to out-lese majeste the previous one to “prove” a loyalty to the throne and wheedle its way back with the royalist elite. That would be a mistake for the latter group and the palace never forgets and doesn’t forgive.

Update 1: This blog post at Thai e-News may explain the Prem protest further (story 1 above). The post is in Thai and has several pictures associated with it, like the one at the right. Worth a look.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post has a little more in a report on Chalerm’s unfortunate statements regarding lese majeste and continued censorship and repression.

Update 3: There has been some international reporting of Chalerm’s statement, adding the previous comment by Yingluck that Article 112 should not be abused.


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27 08 2011
Prem, military and monarchy (again) | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] can’t think of anything to add to what we said yesterday: PPT can’t help wondering if the new government is going to have to out-lese majeste the previous […]

28 08 2011
The Bangkok Post on lese majeste | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] the Post supports the extra-territorial application of a domestic law and the arguably illegal actions of its officials is perhaps beside the point. Of course, the U.S. has a duty to protect its citizens overseas. It is […]

29 08 2011
Anthony Chai’s case | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] In an earlier post, PPT mentioned the case of Californian businessman Anthony Chai, who is suing a a Canadian web hosting company incorporated in the United States, for releasing personal information to the Thai government. These disclosures are alleged to have allowed Thai officials to “identify, detain, and interrogate the plaintiff, Mr. Anthony Chai, both in Thailand and on U.S. soil.” […]