Prachatai, Chiranuch and lese majeste get international attention

15 09 2011

The Financial Times has a story on Chiranuch Premchaiporn and her lese majeste-related trial. The story begins by noting that Chiranuch

looks an unlikely threat to national security. Yet the diminutive editor of Thailand’s popular Prachatai news website sat in a Bangkok court last week listening to a police colonel outline evidence that could land her in prison for up to 20 years….

The Financial Times cannot report the comments of the message as that would potentially fall foul of the law.

Chiranuch says: “I didn’t say anything, I didn’t write anything, I didn’t post anything but …  I am facing the penalty”.

John Ure, “the executive director of the Asia Internet Coalition, a pressure group set up by Google, Ebay, Skype and others” is reported on the wider implications of this case. If internet access providers “are found to be liable, it would be very detrimental to the whole digital economy of Thailand…. E-commerce, social networking and the like would all be completely disrupted.”

A senior western diplomat is cited:

There’s nothing wrong with the idea of a country respecting and honouring their monarch. What is troubling is to see a government use laws designed to protect an important institution like the monarchy in a way that exacerbates social divisions, or excessively punish those who have expressed their criticisms.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, is quoted:

The middle ground is being squeezed…. If you say ‘we want a monarchy but we want reform’ you provoke a hysterical reaction. It forces people into antimonarchism.

Hence, the discussion of a post-Bhumibol Thailand is impossible. David Streckfuss says:

It is impossible to have a rational political dialogue about the law and institution, it increases the probability that issues concerning the monarchy will be solved violently in the end….

The article sees little hope for change under the Yingluck Shinawatra government. That point is also made by a Reporters Without Borders alert released today.

It concludes with mention of Chiranuch and Prachatai winning the international Hellman/Hammett award for “commitment to free expression and courage in the face of prosecution.” The Bangkok Post takes this up, noting that Chiranuch is the first Thai to receive the award, administered by the Human Rights Watch since 1989.

At a ceremony for the awardees, Shawn Crispin, Southeast Asia Representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists “called for the Yingluck Shinawatra administration to seriously review the Computer Crimes Act…”.

He should have added that the government needs to urgently address Article 112 on lese majeste.