Updates from Chiranuch’s trial

18 02 2012

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand has updated its reports on Chiranuch Premchaiporn‘s trial on charges related to the Computer Crimes Act as Prachatai’s webmaster.

FACT’s reports on the last days of the trial may be found at Day 13, Day 14, and Day 15.

There are numerous aspects of these last day of the trial that are worrying and which again show Thailand’s judiciary to be remarkably unprofessional and essentially uninterested in the constitutional and legal rights of defendants.

Examples of this include the beginning of Day 13 without the prosecution being in court and need for the defendant and her lawyers having “to negotiate for the right to give testimony.” The judge appeared unwilling to hear evidence related to international practice and seemed hostile to the defense and rejected seemingly legitimate questions.

Repeatedly, the judge appears disinterested in defense witnesses and tries to get them finished, giving the impression of being prejudiced. On the last day of trial, the judge simply dismissed the idea of hearing testimony and insisted on taking background documents. There is no guarantee that the judge will even read these.

PPT has long known that, in cases related to the monarchy, judges are prejudiced against defendants and generally uninterested in their constitutional and legal rights. In fact, judges in such cases have been shown to take unconstitutional and illegal actions and to ignore evidence. Chiranuch’s case seems little different.

Updated: Chiranuch back in court

13 02 2012

Update: The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is calling for court observers at the resumption of the trial of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, director of the Prachatai website, who is being prosecuted under the Computer Crime Act after her arrest in March 2009. The trial of her case, after it was delayed for a variety of reasons, will again resume on February 14 to 16, 2012 at the Criminal Court in Bangkok.

PPT re-posts this letter from Chiranuch Premchaiporn, charges under the Computer Crimes Act and also facing lese majeste allegations.  The letter is from the FACT website:

Dear friends/colleagues and those who always interested on my trial,

Three years, are the time I have to live my life being accused of committing a crime under Section 14 and 15 of the Computer Crime Act. Still, I have to continue a life like this without knowing an end. For all these time, I would like to thank you for your assistance, support and keen interest on the trial observation always.

The police arrested me at Prachatai Office on 6 March 2009 while the prosecutor filed the case to the Criminal Court on 31 March 2010. On the latter date, I was detained in the court basement for four hours before THB 300,000 bail was guaranteed by my sister’s career (she is a nurse in the government hospital) as an exchange for my … temporary release. The court then arranged a meeting on 31 May 2010 to investigate the witnesses, collect the evidence as well as decide on the hearing dates. At first, the hearings were scheduled for eight consecutive days in February 2011 but could only continue for four days with five prosecutor witnesses’ presence. The rest of the witnesses said they were not available on the mentioned dates required the judges, prosecutors, and the lawyers’ team to set up a new hearing schedule from September to October 2011. Due to a large time gap; the composition of the judges in the second period were changed with regards to the annual shift occurred in the bureaucratic system. In September, the hearings of the prosecutors’ witnesses were completed and the hearings of the Defense witnesses had started including that of myself. In October, massive flooding in Bangkok prevented the continual court trial, Mr. Danny O’Brien from Committee to Protect Journalists who was traveling all the way from San Francisco being the only witness allowed. At the hearing, an interpreter provided by the court was unable to give an accurate interpretation. The lawyers’ team, as a result, [h]as decided to submit the testimony written by Mr. O’Brien beforehand and would like to postponed the rest of the hearings to 14-16 February, 2012.

One week left, when the hearing of the Defense witnesses should come to the final round. This time, the court trial will continue from 14-16 February 2012 at Court Room 910, the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road with five respectful witnesses:

Professor Sawatree Suksri from Department of Criminal Law, Thammasat University: an expert on Computer Crime Law.

Professor Jittat Fakcharoenphol, Ph.D, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering, Kasetsart University: an expert on IT Technology

Doctor Kitibhoom Chutasmith, Director of Bhusing Hospital, Sri Sakhet Province: Prachatai Webboard user

Mr. Wanchat Bhadungrat, Founder of Pantip.com

Assistant Professor Pirongrong Ramasoota Rananan, Associate Dean, Department of Graduate Studies, Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University: a scholar in Mass Media who researched on the Internet Content Regulations

At the moment, the hearings are expected to proceed with the witnesses shown on the below list:

14 February 2012 (All Day): Professor Sawatree, Professor Jittat and Doctor Kitibhoom

15 February 2012 (Morning session): Mr. Wanchat Bhadungrat

16 February 2012 (Afternoon Session): Assistant Professor Pirongrong

For those interested to attend the trial observation, the court usually runs the morning session from 09.00-12.00 and the afternoon session from 13.00-16.00. Interpretation service is also available for international observers Please feel free to contact Ms. Kheetanat Wannaboworn KWANNABOWORN@gmail.com or 084-899-0509 to inform of your requirement.

Besides my court trial, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, Founding Editor of “Voice of Thaksin” will also undergo his trial on 13 February 2012, SongKla Province. Somyot has been charged under Article 112 of the Criminal Code as the Publisher and Advertising Editor of the mentioned magazine for the presence of an article written by “Jit Phollachan” (alias) while the article was claimed to contain defamatory contents to the King and the Royal Family. Each month, Somyot needs to travel to different provinces around Thailand depending on the witnesses’ House Registration (even though all of them are working in Bangkok); so far, Somyot’s trials were held in SaKaew, Petchaboon, and Nakhon Sawan with different judges every time. Somyot used to apply for bail for seven times and all of them had been rejected. For this reason, his son, Mr. Panitan Pruksakasemsuk who is currently a sophomore at Faculty of Law, Thammasat University decided to call for his father’s Rights to Bail on Hunger Strike called “Free my dad”. The strike will begin at 4pm, 11 February 2012 and will continue for 112 hours. I really hope to receive your attendance again at the trial observation and hope to have your support as well on Somyot’s Rights to Bail.

With Respect,

Chiranuch Premchaiporn

The cost of internet censorship

1 01 2012

PPT missed this article on the cost of internet censorship a couple of weeks ago, and we are thankful to Freedom Against Censorship Thailand for pointing it out. (While at FACT, we also recommend FACT’s 2011 state of censorship report.)

In The Nation, Kavi Chongkittavorn has an opinion piece where he says that “Every single day, the government is spending almost Bt1.5 million to block undesirable websites and close down web content.” Of course, almost all of these are sites deemed by authorities to be anti-monarchy. That’s about 43 baht for every man, woman and child in Thailand per day. It is more than 500 million baht per year.

That might seem like a lot, but PPT guesses it is just the tip of the censorship iceberg. We’d be prepared to bet that the total cost is double and triple this. After all, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung alone wants 400 million baht for his work to stamp out anti-monarchism. Then think of all the taxpayer funds the military has paid out to censor.

If readers then add in all of the positive propaganda paid out promoting the monarchy to an increasingly skeptical public, then the cost of protecting and promoting the monarchy is now enormous.


A brief update on Chiranuch’s trial

12 10 2011

PPT has been following the lese majeste-related computer crimes trial of Chiranuch Premchaiporn mainly through the reports posted at FACT. The latest report is here. We have also been updating the page we maintain on Chiranuch at Pending Cases.

The most recent development has been a delay. As FACT reports, “Observers of the trial of Chiranuch Premchaiporn hoped to see her case concluded at the close of this week and have a verdict before … December 5.” However, the extensive flooding in the Thailand and Bangkok has intervened.

The presiding judge was late to court because of flooding and only agreed to sit to hear “Danny O’Brien, expert Internet witness for the defence, [who] had travelled to Thailand from the United States for the second time to testify at great inconvenience and expence.” Scroll down the FACT post for O’Brien’s written submission and there’s more at The Nation.

The judge has scheduled further days of hearings on 14-16 February 2012.

The royalist and Chiranuch’s trial

9 09 2011

PPT hasn’t been posting on the trial of Prachatai’s Chiranuch Premchaiporn on computer crimes charges. The main reason for this is because Freedom Against Censorship Thailand’s C.J. Hinke has been providing a daily commentary:  Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8. The reason for this PPT post is to draw attention to the Day 9 account.

In that post, Hinke states that the sole accuser, who prompted the police to investigate was M.L. Panadda Disakul, a minor prince now said by the Bangkok Post to be governor of Chiang Mai. The prince did not file a charge and was not called as a witness.

Both the FACT and Post accounts are worth reading.

Chiranuch’s lese majeste trial resumes

1 09 2011

The Bangkok Post reports on the resumption of Chiranuch Premchaiporn‘s lese majeste and computer crimes trial that began back in February. The story begins:

The trial of independent media icon Chiranuch Premchaiporn on charges brought under the Computer Crimes Act was to begin on Thursday morning amid international academia concern over the ambiguous position of the new government on the controversial use of lese majeste laws.

Witnesses for the prosecution are due in court in a series of hearings which have resumed today after half a year’s pause. They will appear in turn at the Ratchada Criminal Court on September 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 20 and 21, while witnesses for the defence are to appear on October 11, 12, 13 and 14.

Chiranuch’s trial is expected to garner plenty of international attention and throw a spotlight on the absurdity of lese majeste in Thailand. The Post account has an account of recent lese majeste actions by the previous government and that of Yingluck Shinawatra.

FACT has an account of the first day of the trial in this new round of hearings and Day 6 of the trial and notes that:

The morning hearing was held in one of the smallest courtrooms with a standing-room capacity crowd of around 50 supporters from local and int’l NGOs, media and diplomats from several Western embassies.

It is worth reading the whole account that includes these vignettes, apparently from a new judge on the case:

The plain-speaking judge’s first statement was that this case was really ‘no big deal’—“ คดีไม่ใช่เรื่องใหญ่โต”!

The judge’s final comment to the day’s testimony was, again, in his opinion, ‘this case is nothing’ and ‘the defendant was not at fault’.

In a gloomy situation for lese majeste under the Yingluck Shinawatra government, at least these reported comments promise some hope on this one case.

Updated: Chiranuch’s trial resumes 1 September

29 08 2011

FACT reminds us, by way of several posts that the lese majeste/computer crimes trial of Prachatai’s Chiranuch Premchaiporn resumes on 1 September 2011, and is scheduled to continue through various dates in September and October. The court is presently scheduled to be an open court. The Thai Netizen Network makes this excellent point:

No one has forgotten Chiranuch. Her case has caused international outrage and the tsunami of public opinion is just getting started. We forfeit any right to call ourselves a democracy if the Crown convicts Chiranuch.

For more details, see FACT’s posts here, here and here.

Update: This from Front Line, the International Foundation for The Protection of Human Rights Defenders:

Thailand: Update – Trial of human rights defender Chiranuch Premchaiporn to resume on 1 September

The trial of human rights defender Ms Chiranuch Premchaiporn will resume on 1 September 2011, at the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court. Witnesses for the Public Prosecutor are due in court on 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 20, 21 September, while witnesses for the defence are to heard on 11, 12, 13, 14 October.

In March 2010, Chiranuch Premchaiporn was charged with violating Section 15 of the Computer Crime Act. The charges are allegedly linked to ten comments that criticised the monarchy, which appeared on the now defunct Prachatai web board. Although the comments were made by members of the public, the public prosecutor alleged that as the moderator of the web board, Chiranuch Premchaiporn was responsible for the content. Chiranuch Premchaiporn fully complied with the authorities by having those comments removed after she was informed to do so by the authorities.

If found guilty, Chiranuch Premchaiporn could face up to 20 years in prison or a fine of 1,000,000 Thai Baht (€23,000).

Chiranauch Premchaiporn is the Executive Director of Prachatai, a non-profit online news website which which publishes articles on politics, the people’s movement, and human rights in Thailand and South-east Asia. In May 2011, Chiranauch Premchaiporn received the Courage in Journalism Award presented by the International Women’s Media Foundation.

Please see the original urgent appeal on 5 November 2010 at http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/13727

The Economist on censorship

25 08 2011

Banyan at The Economist has a useful account of internet and other censorship in Asia. This is what it says of Thailand:

The logic of monarchism also compels Thailand’s government to intervene directly on the internet. According to Freedom Against Censorship Thailand, an NGO, it has blocked hundreds of thousands of web pages. Thailand’s efforts to curb unpalatable online material, however, are no more than a picket fence when compared with the great firewall of China.

Thailand should be a bastion of media freedom in Thailand. The royalists and the unlamented Abhisit Vejjajiva-led and Democrat Party dominated government did more to roll back media freedom in Thailand than any government since the previous royalist regime led by Privy Councilor Thanin Kraivixien in 1976-77.

FACT on Joe Gordon

20 06 2011

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand has a post well worth reading in full. It is on the American Joe Gordon, currently incarcerated without bail in Bangkok for alleged lese majeste.

PPT won’t summarize it, but there are a couple of points to highlight. Joe is alleged to have provided links on a website that go to the banned book, The King Never Smiles. As we have also pointed out, this book, in Thai translation, “has been widely available on the Web at multiple hosting sites since at least 2007.” FACT states: “… we monitor such censorship issues and can confirm that none of the sites hosting such translations have ever been blocked in Thailand by govt’s Internet censors.” It is pointed out that the site that Joe is allegedly involved with is “not blocked in Thailand despite the arrest of its alleged webmaster for its content.”

FACT makes another excellent point: “… Thai police stated that Joe Gordon was webmaster for NorPorChor USA’s website. Wait just a minute here! Wasn’t Kenny, Tantawut Taweewarodomkul, convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison March 15 for that very ‘crime’?!? So who is really NorPorChor’s webmaster? Accusing Joe Gordon throws Kenny’s conviction into serious question and makes likely grounds for a legal appeal.”

On Joe’s failed bail attempts, FACT says: “To deny Joe Gordon bail, twice so far, despite posting a Bt.1.7 million ($56,000 USD), shows govt lack of good faith in its citizens. Denying an accused bail is tantamount to crippling efforts at mounting an effective defence.”

And FACT is appropriately cynical about the self-proclaimed protectors of human rights: “There could be no clearer censorship issue than the arrest of Joe Gordon. Hillary Clinton has been talking big about Internet censorship for two years. Joe Gordon’s case will probably prove the US was just blowing smoke. Similarly, there could be no clearer ‘prisoner of conscience’ for Amnesty International. Will they speak up?”

Probably they won’t say much. PPT has carried the lamentableAI record for several years. While Benjamin Zawacki remains in his position, AI continues to take a biased, royalist, political position on lese majeste. AI in Thailand is hopeless on lese majeste. On the U.S. blowing smoke, our post on U.S. support for the current regime is worth re-reading. The U.S.’s support has barely wavered through killings, illegal imprisonments, torture and massive censorship.

FACT also notes a disturbing new trend in censorship, with the current regime now seeking to block anonymous proxies for circumvention of censorship.

PPT reckons that if the Democrat Party manages to get back into government by military hook or by judicial crook, then it is the Chinese road for censorship. Thailand seems headed in the direction of massive web control. A Democrat Party government will have to deepen censorship and deepen repression.


C.J. Hinke letter on Joe Gordon

6 06 2011

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand


3rd June 2011

H.E. Kristie A. Kenney

US Ambassador to Thailand

Your Excellency:

It is incumbent that the US government support US citizen Joe W. Gordon who has recently been arrested on multiple charges in Thailand, the country of his birth.

Mr. Gordon has been charged with the following crimes:

1) lèse majesté 3-15 years, Criminal Code article 112

2)‘inciting unrest and disobedience of the law in public’, unknown penalty and legislation

3) ‘disseminating computer data which threatens national security’, 3-5 years, Computer Crimes Act 2007

4)‘national security’ charge, presumably using the Internal security Act 2007, unknown penalty.

The accused is in poor health but is being held without bail which prevents mounting an effective legal defence. Past experience with the Thai judicial process has shown that an accused is most often held for several years awaiting trial.

According to legal experts, there is a 98% conviction rate for this kind of offence. I estimate that single counts on these charges would amount to a sentence of 60 to 80 years in prison. Past strategy for Thai prosecutions of this nature have shown multiple counts added to each charge, increasing prison sentences exponentially.

In addition to Mr. Gordon’s accused lèse majesté for allegedly linking to portions of the banned biography of King Bhumibol, The King Never Smiles in Thai translation, he stands accused of being webmaster for Thai political Redshirts at the NorPorChor USA website.

This accusation is most interesting because Tantawut Taweewarodomkul was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison March 15 for precisely the same crime. Of course, he had the temerity to plead not guilty which doubled his sentence.

Will the real NorPorChor USA webmaster please stand up! Both these men were easy targets simply because they were in Thailand rather than overseas.

The US government has been vocal about global Internet freedom during the current administration. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton gave forceful speeches against Internet censorship in January 2010 and again in January 2011.

The US government has made six million dollars available in 2008 and thirty million dollars in 2011 to circumvent Internet blocking around the globe.

If the United States does not support Joe Gordon against Thai censorship, all these efforts have been empty lies to make itself look free in the eyes of the world.

I am well aware that the US cannot intervene in the legal processes of any other country, even to protect its citizens.

However, that certainly does not mean that the US government cannot speak out—and loudly—against a grave injustice and the censorship which has made Joe Gordon a prisoner of conscience.

One of the first steps the US government should offer is to guarantee Mr. Gordon’s bail. It is unlikely any court would then refuse to grant it.

As an American living in Thailand, I wish this message to be conveyed to the State Department in Washington and the highest levels of government.

I welcome consulting with you over Joe Gordon’s case.

Thank you.

for freedom,

CJ Hinke

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)

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