FCCT statement on charging of Prachatai journalist

13 07 2016

As readers will know, Taweesak Kerdpoka, a journalist with Prachatai was arrested and charged in Ratchaburi. He was detained after the police searched a car of student activists and found copies of New Democracy Movement’s booklet which provides information that opposes the junta on the draft constitution. Taweesak had hitched a ride with the students.

They are apparently charged with violations against the military dictatorship’s ridiculous and draconian Referendum Act that allows the junta to repress all views that are not its own on its charter and the illegitimate referendum on it.

His arrest led to junta thugs – police and military – showing up at Prachatai’s office and searching it, coming up empty-handed.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand has issued a statement on the arrest and charging of Taweesak. PPT reproduces it in full:fcctlogo2 - Copy

The professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) is concerned at the detention and charging of Taweesak Kerdpoka, a journalist with the independent news website Prachatai.

Mr Taweesak was arrested on July 10 while covering the activities of the New Democracy Movement (NDM), one of the few groups which publicly criticise the current government. He was released on bail but has been charged under the government’s Referendum Act, which outlaws criticism of the draft constitution, a document that Thais will vote on in a referendum on August 7.

The NDM activists had travelled to the central Thai district of Ban Pong to support another group of 18 activists who had been summoned by police. Mr Taweesak accompanied them from Bangkok to Ban Pong in the same car as part of his reporting assignment.

Police stopped and searched the vehicle and said they found pamphlets and stickers that they alleged were in breach of the Referendum Act. The documents belonged to the NDM activists who have been calling on Thais to reject the proposed charter. Prachatai director Ms Chiranuch Premchaiporn said the documents did not belong to Mr Taweesak.

All were arrested, charged and later freed on bail, but face up to ten years in jail if convicted. Prachatai’s offices were subsequently searched by police officers on July 12.

It is not unusual for journalists to accompany or travel with newsmakers and interviewees. As a reporter covering human and environmental rights, Mr Taweesak was merely doing his job.

The FCCT is concerned that arresting and charging him sets an alarming precedent for media freedom, and calls on Thai authorities to withdraw the charges against him.





Chiranuch loses appeal

23 12 2015

red candleThis post is essentially one of record. Chiranuch Premchaiporn was was first arrested when the offices of Prachatai were raided by the Crime Suppression police on 6 March 2009, on accusations of allowing webboard comments with lese majeste content. The content on the website said to be problematic was from 15 October to 3 November 2008. Chiranuch ran the webboard.Chiranuch computer

On 30 May 2012, Chiranuch was found guilty under the Computer Crimes Act and slapped with an 8-month suspended sentence, reduced from 12 months, and US$630 fine. In early October 2012, Chiranuch decided to appeal her conviction. Her appeal was rejected on 8 November 2013. She then appealed to the Supreme Court.

Prachatai now reports that the Supreme Court on 23 December 2015 confirmed the verdicts from the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance. The Supreme Court also criticized Chiranuch for not deleting the offending posts quickly enough, noting a delay from a Saturday to Monday. Chiranuch denies this.

It also criticized her for not doing enough to facilitate police investigations on lese majeste and computer crimes. While this is a strange claim, given that Chiranuch was being charged and investigated, it is also denied, pointing to failures on the part of the police investigators.





Prachatai-related lese majeste case drags on

21 10 2015

In a case reported at Prachatai, the “Supreme Court has dismissed charges against Noppawan Tangudomsuk, accused of posting lese majeste messages on the Prachatai web-board in 2008, citing inconclusive evidence.”

She was accused of and charged with lese majeste and offenses under the 2007 Computer Crimes Act for posts at that board, apparently in 2008. She was arrested on 30 January 2009 and was bailed after 10 days.

The case remains murky, but was central to evidence given at the trial of Chiranuch Premchaiporn in 2011-12. Little is known of the case, with Prachatai sometimes identifying Noppawan as Bento, an internet alias. In one instance, a lower court heard that:

a Prachatai poster known as ‘Bento’, the only one to be prosecuted although police have identified the posters of the remaining nine comments with which Chiranuch is charged. Noppawan […] was acquitted of lèse majesté. The witness noted that ‘Bento’’s name had simply been replaced with Chiranuch’s in prosecution charge documents. He noted drily that the message not deleted by Prachatai’s webmaster stayed up for 20 days, unnoticed not only by MICT censors but by other users of Prachatai’s forum.

When the case came to the Supreme Court, the judges decided that an IP address, “which the prosecutors used as primary evidence, it cannot be proven that the suspect posted the lèse majesté messages because IP addresses can easily be faked.” There were no witnesses.

In 2011, the lower court dismissed the charges, “citing the same reasons, thus giving her the benefit of the doubt. However, the Appeal Court in October 2013 overturned the decision of the Court of First Instance and sentenced Noppawan to five years in prison.” Now she has been acquitted again.

Chiranuch’s lese majeste case continues “at the Supreme Court and will be finalised at the end of this year.”





Sombat charged with lese majeste

14 06 2014

As the military dictatorship rolls out its lese majeste dragnet, Prachatai reports that jailed democracy activist Sombat Boonngamanong has been charged under an Article 112 complaint lodged by serial lese majeste complainant Wiput Sukprasert.

The report states that police from Roi-et Province arrived in Bangkok to charge Sombat on Friday. Roi-et is where the monarchy lusting Wiput, said to be a yellow-shirt businessman, lodged the complaint in January 2014.

Wiput is a crazed ultra-royalist who throws around serious charges for political impact and to boost his own persona as a mad monarchist. Prachatai reports that he has “filed at least 15 lèse majesté cases against prominent academics and journalists, including Pravit Rojanaphruk, a senior reporter at The Nation, Surapot Taweesak, an academic and columnist for Prachatai, and Prachatai director Chiranuch Premchaiporn.”

The ultra-royalist accuses Sombat of “disseminating a doctored image defaming the monarchy.” That material is a “doctored image of the 2006 coup makers.” Prachatai states:

In the image, the photos of Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the anti-election People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), and a woman replace those of … the King and Queen, while the faces of the then Army Chief, Navy Chief, Air Force Chief, Police Chief and Supreme Commander are replaced by those of key figures of the PDRC and the Democrat Party.

Sombat says he did not create the photo and that he has always been “very careful with the issue of the monarchy…”.

When crazies like Wiput are taken seriously it is a clear message that politics in Thailand is at its most base level.





Chiranuch’s appeal rejected

9 11 2013

Chiranuch Premchaiporn was was charged in 2009 under the computer crimes-cum-lese majeste law for 10 comments posted at a Prachatai web board in 2008.  She was convicted on 30 May 2012.

An AFP report at The Malay Mail notes she lost her appeal against her ridiculous conviction and sentencing on Friday. The Appeals Court upheld the eight-month suspended jail sentence and fine.Chiranuch computer

At Prachatai it is reported that the judge “agreed with the Court of First Instance that it was convincing that the defendant had not consented to the nine comments that appeared on the forum for 1-11 days. However, the court was not convinced that the defendant was not aware of one particular comment which appeared for 20 days.” The judge then went into royalist-elite-speak:

Given that the defendant was 41 years old at the time, she had graduated from journalism school and she had worked in the media industry, she should have been aware that internet forums can be abused by criminals who use it to defame the monarchy, the judge said, adding that as a Thai citizen, the defendant has a duty to protect the monarchy.

The judge further maintained that the monarchy is “related to national security.”

Protecting wealth, privilege and power at the most minute level is critical for the survival of the nation or at least the ruling class that clusters around the palace.





Cyberspace and lese majeste

21 06 2013

A site new to us has come to PPT’s attention. It is 4M, a French site that reports in French and English on social media and blogs. Logo4MBlog3

This site came to our attention when Thaweporn Kummetha posted on lese majeste and computer crimes laws. She doesn’t say much that most PPT readers wouldn’t already know, but this story presents as a “young journalist’s fight against lese majeste.” Thaweporn says that her eye-opening moment was the 2009 charging of Chiranuch Premchaiporn,

One aspect of the story that deserves some attention is this:ad468

It is more and more obvious to me that Thailand is democratic only on its surface. It is sadder that many journalists in this country kowtow to the undemocratic law. There is no excuse for journalists not to protest against the law that suppresses freedom of expression. They are the ones who exercise the right to freedom of expression everyday.

She makes a good point.

There are a couple of related stories on social media in Southeast Asia and blogging around the world, including Thailand.





Crispin on internet censorship

14 02 2013

Shawn Crispin writing for the Committee to Protect Journalists has an article on the increasing tendency for governments to want to control the internet in the Southeast Asian region. Of course, that includes comments on Thailand. His verdict is pretty much the same as the one PPT noted yesterday: almost all of Thailand’s censorship of the internet in Thailand is about the monarchy:

The authorities had already applied the law’s vague and arbitrary national security-related provisions to censor tens of thousands of anonymously posted Web pages, mostly for material deemed offensive to the monarchy.

Crispin also makes a point that scholar David Streckfuss made at the FCCT: the 2006 military-palace coup made lese majeste and the computer crimes law. In the latter, it was the junta’s administration under on-again, off-again privy councilor Surayud Chulanont that passed the flawed computer crimes law, and it is essentially that regime and the one led by Abhisit Vejjajiva, also hoisted to power by the military-palace complex, that made the law a political weapon of choice.

Part of his account is of the “legal calisthenics” that lese majeste and computer crime laws involve. For example, in the case of Chiranuch Premchaiporn’s conviction was a:

… landmark verdict [that] effectively shifted the onus of Internet censorship in Thailand from government authorities to Internet intermediaries. Judges ruled that by failing to remove the comment quickly enough–it remained on Chiranuch’s Prachatai website for more than 20 days–she had “mutually consented” to the critical posting….

On the Abhisit regime, Crispin observes:

In 2009, in the name of shielding the monarchy from criticism, the previous Abhisit Vejjajiva-led government began a controversial Internet monitoring scheme that trained civilian volunteers, including university students, to serve as “cyberscouts” assigned to comb the Internet for anti-royal material. The number of lèse majesté complaints filed under Abhisit’s tenure nearly tripled year on year from 2009 to 2010, rising from 164 to 478 cases, according to Thai court records.

Crispin then moves to the Yingluck Shinawatra government, where the comments become less fact-based, claiming that the government’s Internet surveillance capabilities were expanded “in 2011 through a US$13 million investment in an undisclosed ‘interception’ system, according to local news reports.” It would be good to know if there has been more surveillance rather than simply reports. It is correct that in 2011″cabinet approved a directive that allowed the national police Department of Special Investigations to collect evidence, including through the intercept of Internet-based communications, without a court order in Computer Crime Act-related investigations.” It remains unclear how this power is being used.

On lese majeste, Crispin reports that:

Yingluck also established a 22-member committee dedicated specifically to suppressing lèse majesté content online. By mid-2012, MICT authorities claimed to have blocked 90,000 Facebook pages because of anti-monarchy content. That censorship followed on a late-2011 warning by MICT Minister Anudith Nakornthap that Internet users could be charged under the Computer Crime Act for “liking” online comments critical of the royal family.

While the latter is true, the claim to blocking a large number of Facebook pages has not been confirmed. One thing is clear: the number of allegations and charges of lese majeste has declined precipitously.

If any readers have better data on blocking by the current government, we’d be pleased to post it. Blocking of PPT is far less rigorous than it was under the Abhisit regime, but we continue to see some blocking by ISPs.