Censorship and fear on lese majeste

26 12 2012

Yesterday PPT posted on the sentencing of Khatha Pachachirayapong (คทา ปาจริยพงษ์) on 25 December 2012 to 4 years jail for lese majeste-like offenses under the Computer Crimes Act. His case goes back to 14 October 2009 when there were a series of rumors that the king was seriously ill or had died. This caused a sell-off on the Bangkok stock exchange.

Our source was a quite detailed report at the Bangkok Post. If readers look for that story now, it is gone. This is the message the Post gives when one clicks on the link or searches for the story by title:

Post search

The new and revised Bangkok Post story is here. PPT thought readers might like to compare the two versions of the story to see how fear of lese majeste and/or editorial censorship operates. The new story is reproduced below, and we add back in the bits of the more detailed original story in red and strikeout other bits added in the later story. Thanks to a reader for finding the original story again:

The Criminal Court has on Tuesday sentenced Katha Pajariyapong a former stockbroker to four years in jail imprisonment for posting information online that damaged sabotaging the monarchy and national security in 2009.

Katha Pajariyapong, aged 39, was arrested on Nov 4, 2009, for in connection with two messages posted in Samesky aka Fahdiewgan webpage on April 22 and Oct 31, 2009. online in April and October of that year.

The Criminal Court at Ratchada said a six-year sentence for two criminal counts was reduced by one-third to four years due to his confessions upon arrest and during the investigation.

The April messages, the court said, referred to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn as if she sided with the yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), but it was not true as the monarchy was above politics and loved all sides to no exclusive satisfaction. contained untrue information about HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

The October messages, the verdict read, said a stock nose-dive might be due to the “blind going to heaven”. The court said the content made people believe the King, who was then hospitalised, might have passed away. referred to negative information about the monarchy which caused panic in the stockmarket and sent stocks nosediving.

The Information and Communications Technology Ministry (ICT) and the National Intelligence Agency checked with CS Loxinfo about the owner of the account which was used to post the defamation and untrue information that caused public panic and found it belong to finance company KT Seamico where Katha was working as a marketing broker.

The authorities found the company computer that Katha used had nearly 30,000 hits on the Samesky website and 214 hits using the username “Webgreen” for posting comments on the Samesky webboard.

The court rebutted the defence argument that a fake ICT posting to check the reply of the commentator on the Samesky web page was not convincing.

The court noted that defence witness Jitpat Fakcharoenpol, an IT expert, had already confirmed that a commentator had to register an email with a unique password so that when the ICT posted a message and Webgreen replied, the person replying should be the person who appeared in Katha’s computer at his office.

Another defence witness, Sarinee Archvanantakul, also conceded that bad news would drive down stock prices, so the October 2009 postings therefore were damaging to national security.

The defendant himself also failed to show explicitly that he was not involved in the postings.

A company record showing he was engaged in training on the day of the posting had no signature before or after the training, so Katha might not have been occupied the entire day as he claimed, the court said.

The court also noted that it was the duty of the defence to get the Samesky website operators to testify before the court, not the prosecutor, if the defendant thinks that the webboard operator could defend him.Bangkok Post

The Criminal Court at Ratchadaphisek Road ruled Mr Katha violated the Computer Crime Act for introducing to a computer system information that is false or may compromise national security.

The court sentenced Mr Katha to six years’ imprisonment for the two counts but reduced the sentence to four years due to his confession upon arrest and during the investigation.

The Information and Communications Technology Ministry and National Intelligence Agency traced the account that was used to post the defamatory messages back to the brokerage firm which employed Mr Katha.

The authorities also checked the browsing history of the company computer that Mr Katha used and found he had posted to the websites from there.

The court said the defendant failed to prove explicitly that he was not involved in the postings.

Although Mr Katha claimed he was attending a training session on one of the days the messages were posted, the company’s records did not show him signing in or out of the session.

Mr Katha was found guilty under the Computer Crime Act, Section 14 (2). He is now seeking to appeal and has applied for bail has applied for bail and will appeal against the ruling.

Four other people were arrested separately in connection with the stock index dive. Only two cases were in court Tuesday.

It seems the bits left out are significant both in their original form and even more so now that they are deleted.

More details of the verdict are available at Prachatai, where there is additional information regarding Sirindhorn and the king (the latter missing at the Post, in both versions of the story).



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