Anthony Chai

Anthony Chai is arguably the first person accused of lese majeste while outside Thailand. He is a U.S. citizen accused under Thai law and his case pre-dates that of Joe Gordon. Chai was first detained on suspicion of lese majeste on 9 May 2006.

The World Organization for Human Rights USA has been following his case. According to this organization, in August 2011 Chai 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.” Netfirms is said to have closed the Manusaya site in June 2005. Manusaya is claimed to have been owned by another individual, not Chai.

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.”

The report states that 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.”

According to Chai’s lawyers, there is an active arrest warrant in this case. The complaint lodged with the Californian court is available here as a large PDF.

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.

Media accounts of Chai’s case:

Huffington Post, 14 September 2011: “Anthony Chai Lawsuit Against Netfirms.com Involves Interrogation At LAX McDonald’s By Thai Police

Bangkok Post, 11 September 2011: “A question of freedom of speech?

Phuket News, 9 September 2011: “Man held for lese majeste

Bangkok Post, 3 September 2011: “US citizen in lese majeste scandal sues Internet provider

AFP, 1 September 2011: “U.S. suit challenges Canadian firm on Thai royal insults

Mediashift, 1 September 2011: “Online Comments Run Afoul of Thailand’s Laws Shielding Royalty from Criticism

Asia Sentinel, 30 August 2011: “Did Canadian Firm Snitch over Lese-Majeste Charges?

Asian Correspondent, 30 August 2011: “Foreign web host company ‘snitched’ lese majeste critic to Thai authorities

arstechnica, 29 August 2011: “Thai censorship critic strikes back at snitch Web host

World Organization for Human Rights USA, 26 August 2011: “US Citizen Sues Web Hosting Company for Identifying Him to Thai Government

Reporters Without Borders, 7 May 2010: “US citizen interrogated by Thai officials for his online activities

11 responses

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

[…] Anthony Chai has been added to PPT’s list of Pending Cases. Share this:EmailDiggRedditStumbleUponFacebookTwitterLinkedInPrint […]

2 09 2011
Mediashift looks at lese majeste | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] and recent cases in Thailand. This article looks at lese majeste with the California link to Anthony Chai’s case and U.S. citizen Joe Gordon’s prosecution. Many PPT readers will know the details of the […]

3 09 2011
Wikileaks: U.S. Ambassador Boyce offers lese majeste advice | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] allies to use Article 112 for political purposes, most notably against red shirts. In fact, as the Anthony Chai case makes clear, palace officials are intimately involved in lese majeste […]

10 09 2011
Bangkok Post on Anthony Chai case | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Bangkok Post has a longish report on Anthony Chai’s lese majeste case that has led to a court case in California against a web-hosting firm that released Chai’s […]

21 03 2012
The long arm of lese majeste zealotry « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] as we also know from Joe Gordon‘s case and that of Anthony Chai, the long arm of the lese majesty enforcers extends beyond Thailand’s shores. So too for the […]

21 03 2012
The long arm of lese majeste zealotry « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] as we also know from Joe Gordon‘s case and that of Anthony Chai, the long arm of the lese majesty enforcers extends beyond Thailand’s shores. So too for the […]

23 04 2012
5 12 2012
Lese majeste not forgotten « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Anthony Chai […]

5 12 2012
Lese majeste not forgotten « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] Amnuay Kaewchomphu, Anek Chaichana, Aswin (family name withheld), The Bangkok 19, Bundith Arniya, Anthony Chai, Chanin Khlaikhlung, Chucheep Chivasut, Chuphong Thithuan, Community Radio Station 10, Giles Ji […]

26 01 2013
26 01 2013
Lese majeste hits the popular social media « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] author should know that there has been one reported case of Thai authorities pursuing people overseas and laying in wait for others to show up in Thailand. Lese majeste is meant to maintain and protect […]