Lese majeste charge based on email

22 08 2014

Prachatai reports that Tanet (last name withheld) “has been arrested and charged with Article 112 or lese majeste for sending an email containing a link to content deemed defaming the monarchy to now-defunct Stop Lese Majeste blog.”

Tanet “was accused of sending an email to Emilio Esteban, whom the police identified as an Englishman residing in Spain.” Esteban is alleged to have operated the Stop Les Majeste blog.

The case apparently goes back to 2010, when police hacked Esteban’s email “and found an email from the suspect.” It is alleged that the email stated: “Can you post this web on your site for Thais to read? They need to read it. Thanks load.”

It was only on 2 July 2014 that “10 military officers and plainclothes police raided his house and arrested him.” Police claim he “admitted … sending the email” while under detention at a military base.

The police stated that Tanet is “charged him under Article 112 (for defaming the King), 116 (for instigating unrest) of the Criminal Code and Article 14 (3) of the Computer Crime Law (for sending content deemed threat to national security on the computer system).” Police claim he pleased guilty and he remains in custody at the Bangkok Remand Prison.

This is the third case related to Estaban, with earlier cases in 2009 involving Nat Sattayapornpisut (convicted, jailed for 4.5 years, based on guilty plea; released after serving 2 years and 4 months) and Suwicha Thakor (convicted, jailed for 20 years, commuted to 10 after he pleaded guilty. Pardoned in June 2010).


Anti-112 allies

4 12 2012

In this short post, PPT wants t draw attention to the Red Shirts blog and its post on “Thailand’s lèse majesté prisoners in and out of jail, …[and] the incredible group of friends and family members who support them.” In an excellent post, a couple of things stuck us.112.jpg

First, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk is quoted as declaring that his incarceration and trial is “about human rights. Not just my human rights, but those of all Thai citizens.” He’s absolutely right.

Second, it mentions “single-dad, Tanthawut [Taweewarodomkul who] hopes that he will receive a Royal pardon that would allow him to get back to his family soon.” He’s been in jail since March 2010, and after withdrawing his appeal against his politicized conviction, has been awaiting a pardon since August.

Third, the report mentions the continuing problems that lese majeste victims face following their release. It cites Joe Gordon, who left Thailand following his release, saying “I am sad to leave Thailand, but I don’t feel safe here. The lèse-majesté law … breeds resentment.” He’s now safe in the United States. Attending Joe’s departure party were former lese majeste inmates  Nat Sattayapornpisut and the recently acquitted Surapak Puchaisaeng who “were there, along with many of the people who had supported them through prison.”

Nat Sattayapornpisut released in April

4 08 2012

Prachatai reports that Nat Sattayapornpisut was finally released from jail in April 2012 after serving 2 years and 4 months on lese majeste charges.

Nat’s case goes back to 2008, although it was only in October 2009 that the Criminal Court has agreed to a request by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to detain Nat , then aged 27, under the 2007 Computer Crimes Act after he was found to have sent offensive clips to a blog called StopLeseMajeste.

The DSI began investigations on 29 August 2008 that led to YouTube clips and the arrest of Suwicha Thakor and the discovery of an alias StopLeseMajeste. The latter was believed to belong to “Emilio Esteban,” a Briton living in Spain, who had been in email contact with Suwicha. Between 19 April 2008 and 15 September 2009, Esteban allegedly published contents offensive to the throne on his blogs and called for the abolition of the lese majeste law. The police gained access to Esteban’s email, where they allegedly found that on 21-23 July 2009 Nat had sent him three “offensive clips” which were then posted by Esterban.

DSI initially charged Nat with offenses under the Computer Crimes Act—disseminating pornographic materials through the internet – which we assume to be the naked pictures of various royals and associates that have long been in circulation.  He was eventually bailed out by his relatives with 200,000 baht in cash but a month later was summoned to the DSI, and further charged with lese majeste.

These charges are interesting as the website includes, in addition to some of the most childish clips that appeared at YouTube about the king, clips involving the crown prince and his various consorts in compromising situations as well as other royals in similar situations. Some of the clips are real and have been surreptitiously circulated in Thailand, while others are concocted and silly. Involving the crown prince’s private life has seen others jailed (such as Harry Nicolaides and Akechai Hongkangwarn).

There was very little news on Nat’s case until well after his release from prison in April 2012 and then via this Prachatai report.

It states that Nat went to court on 14 December 2009. He went alone and without a lawyer.  Without support and advice, when he was asked by court officials what he had decided to do he was also told that if he confessed, a verdict would be delivered immediately. He knew that “this kind of case was almost impossible to fight.” He confessed. That day he was found “guilty on three counts for sending three e-mails on 22-23 July 2009, and sentenced him to 9 years in prison, but reduced the term by half as he had pleaded guilty.

Nat’s time in prison was extremely difficult for him. Prachatai reports that “During his time, he got to know other ‘Section 112’ prisoners, starting with Wanchai Saetan who was in the same zone, Worawut Thanangkorn who was moved to the zone in early 2011, and then Thanthawut Thaweewarodomkul.  It was Thanthawut who told visitors about Nat and Wanchai.  As a result, from mid-2011 onward, Nat, who had previously been rarely visited, had more visitors, including red shirts and other concerned people, and that lifted his spirits.”

Nat now visits his compatriots who remain imprisoned on lese majeste charges.

Free them!

23 03 2012

Prachatai provides brief details of a letter by eight lese majeste convicts to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra “to help seek a royal pardon to ‘free them from suffering’.”

Those seeking a pardon are: Surachai Danwatthananusorn (serving 7.5 years in prison), Suchart Nakbangsai (3 years), Joe Gordon (2 .5 years), Suriyan Kokpuey (3 years and 15 days), Nat Sattayapornpisut (4.5 years), Sathian Rattanawong (3 years), Wanchai Saetan (15 years) and Darunee Charnchoengsilpakul (15 years)

Apparently in a first-ever joint appeal for pardon, they have written:

Now all of us feel guilty and are very sorry for what we have done wrong. So we have decided not to fight our cases, and have pleaded guilty so that the court would decide on our punishment to end court proceedings, and we could exercise our right to petition for a royal pardon….

Under the Criminal Procedure Code, these people can “seek a royal pardon through the Minister of Justice, or the Minister or Cabinet can, on their own initiative, propose to HM the King a royal pardon for convicts.”

The Nation in an article by Avudh Panananda says that the Yingluck government is in a “a dilemma over whether to act on granting the royal pardon for eight lese majeste convicts who happen to be its red allies.” The Nation report spends a large amount of space discussing the novelty of the joint appeal:

Yet the eight have chosen to go through the long and uncharted route for their pardon. Furthermore, they want the government to intervene on their behalf. They specifically called attention to their letter two weeks after the government remained silent on the matter.

Avudh claims that:

After the vetting of petitions by relevant authorities, His Majesty the King would grant pardon to every case. Thai and alien offenders often walked out of prison within a month.

PPT isn’t sure that this is a true statement. It sounds more like royal posterior polishing in the public domain. Reader knowledge on this would be appreciated. One reason we wonder about this is that the report then states:

Even if the government agrees to intervene and issue a pardon decree, the process will take months, perhaps even a year to complete.

Months, years? So what is it?

The report states that none of the government leaders “want the political hot potato dumped in their lap. PM Yingluck appears clueless that the letter was addressed and sent to her.”

In another statement that is made but isn’t justified, Avudh states:

The eight see themselves as political prisoners, hence their demand for the government’s intervention to resolve their legal predicament. But the government is duty-bound to look beyond personal and political ties. Under domestic and international laws, the eight are convicts who can not be classified and treated as political prisoners.

We think Avudh is making this up. As far as we can tell, the Thai laws on political prisoners are non-existent and the only criteria that were developed were those of January this year. Internationally, political prisoners tend to be defined as those who are jailed because they have opposed or criticized their government. That would include criticizing a monarch or a political system. This is the approach PPT has taken.

Amnesty International talks of prisoners of conscience, and this refinement is reserved for those who act peacefully in their politics. None of these prisoners in Thailand appear to fall outside that definition, although AI in Thailand is hopeless and doesn’t apply its own definition.

Equally, though, there are political prisoners, recognized by the U.N., as having taken up arms in freedom struggles. Those supporting Palestinians and Burmese seeking freedom have used a broader definition than AI. The Council of Europe has been debating the term for several years. If any reader knows more, let us know.

In the end, it seems Avudh is making this claim up for political gain. You see this again in the final paragraph of the story:

Abandoning the eight is tantamount to political suicide as the red shirts will condemn the government as ungrateful. But rescuing them will create a dangerous precedent and make it pointless to enforce the lese majeste law.

As much as we wished that the lese majeste law would become pointless by granting a pardon, we think Avudh is again being politicized in approach.

The bottom line is: these political prisoners should be freed.

Free the political prisoners!

6 03 2012

At Prachatai, there is a report that political jailed activist Surachai Danwattananusorn is about to “petition the government to seek a royal pardon for all political prisoners including those jailed for lèse majesté offences.”

Surachai is to write to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to have Minister of Justice Pracha Phromnok to seek the royal pardon.

The letter is planned to be “signed by eight lèse majesté convicts and defendants including Surachai himself. The others are Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Joe Gordon, Sathian Rattanawong, Wanchai Saetan, Nat Sattayapornpisut, Suchart Nakbangsai and Darunee Charnchoensilpakul.

PPT believes that such a move will bring much needed pressure on the government and the palace to consider the plight of Thailand’s political prisoners, many of who are victims of the draconian political crime that is lese majeste. PPT doubts the palace is in any mood to respond positively, as it harbors a deep fear that it is under threat from republicanism.


FACT push the censorship envelope

31 10 2010

C.J. Hinke at Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) is pushing the censorship envelope, with an interview with Emilio Esteban, the man allegedly behind Thailand’s 7-month blocking of YouTube and at least two lese majeste arrests – he was one of those connected to both Nat Sattayapornpisut and Suwicha Thakor.

Read the interview as it is sure to be blocked. Esteban has several outlets including this and this. Readers in Thailand should be very careful if linking to these sites.

Esteban claims to oppose lese majeste. Frankly, much of the material posted by Esteban is juvenile but, at the same time, is remarkably challenging to the monarchy.

Calling on the king for mercy

5 12 2009

Reporters Without Borders (4 December 2009: “King asked to pardon Internet users prosecuted on lese majeste or national security charges”) reports that the organization has written to the king “asking him to pardon Thai Internet users who are in jail or who are being prosecuted in connection with the dissident views they allegedly expressed online.”

RWB argues that by “agreeing to this request, the king would show the entire world that he respects freedom of expression and would be putting in to practice what he said on 5 December 2005 about protecting this freedom…”.

The letter mentions Suwicha Thakor, a blogger who is imprisoned, and says he is “neither a politician nor an activist, and never criticised the king or posted articles about him.” Further, RWB says Suwicha is an “innocent man who has already suffered too much…”.

The letter asks the king to” intercede to obtain the withdrawal of all charges” against several Internet users: Giles Ji Ungpakorn, Jonathan Head, Nat Sattayapornpisut, the royal health rumor 4, and Praya Pichai, “a blogger who was accused in September 2007 of criticising the royal family. The public prosecutor has until 2017 to decide whether or not to prosecute him, which is unacceptable from the viewpoint of both the right of defence and the right to free expression.” RWB could easily have mentioned several other cases (see PPT’s pages on convicted and pending cases).

RWB states: “We hope that King Bhumibol Adulyadej will respond positively to this request for a royal pardon…. By violating the freedom of expression of Thailand’s citizens, charges of lese majeste and endangering national security under the 2007 Computer Crime Act are hurting the image of both the king and his kingdom.”

PPT very much appreciates RWB attempts to once again highlight these injustices. At the same time, we have not seen any evidence that anyone in the palace seriously supports freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, it looks like the designated defenders of the monarchy in the current Abhisit Vejjajiva-led government might be calling for mercy too. If PPT readers haven’t seen it already, read this story in the Bangkok Post and then read Bangkok Pundit’s comment on it here. It looks suspiciously like someone in government is going to have to wear a lese majeste charge.

It must be exceptionally difficult for officials to monitor the tens of thousands of anti-monarchy websites and other threats to “national security” and to keep up with all the propaganda sites and activities they have on their plates. Potentially dangerous work if a mistake is made.

Questioning Amnesty International’s double standards

21 11 2009

Also available as สงสัยในสองมาตรฐานขององค์กรนิรโทษกรรมสากล

Yesterday PPT posted on the Asian Human Rights Commission statement on the use of the Computer Crimes Act as a substitute for the lese majeste law and Reporters Without Borders released a report the day before criticizing the use of this other laws that limit expression.

PPT assumes that because these “crimes” are political and related to the monarchy in Thailand, that Amnesty International will say nothing. That has been its “policy.”

But what are they doing elsewhere? On 16 November 2009, there was this:

Urgent Action 308/09 – Prisoners of conscience – Bloggers Jailed in Azerbaijan: URGENT ACTION APPEAL – From Amnesty International USA

Two “activists and bloggers” are said by AI to “have been sentenced to two and a half years and two years respectively in an unfair trial. Amnesty International believes the charges against them were fabricated and they have been imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.” One of the men posted “a satirical video … criticizing the Azerbaijani government … on the video-sharing website YouTube.”

Interestingly, in this case, the men are jailed on charges that don’t relate to their postings. However, AI considers them prisoners of conscience because the government has targeted them for their political views.

So can anyone at Amnesty International explain why Thailand is different for the organization? How is the jailing of people in Thailand different? PPT sees that the details are different. In fact, the use of the law is harsher in Thailand (jailing for 20 years, reduced to 10 – Suwicha Thakor) and being held for long periods without bail (Suwicha and Nat Sattayapornpisut), but political “crimes” are very similar. Indeed, in Thailand a special law has been created to facilitate intimidation and to allow for people to be “imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.” That law was put in place by an illegitimate, military-backed government. The trials of these Thais could never be considered fair.

We wonder how it is that Amnesty International feels comfortable operating with such double standards.

Readers may want to ask AI, but be aware that emailing AI produces, in PPT’s experience, no response at all: Amnesty International USA, 600 Pennsylvania Ave SE 5th fl, Washington DC 20003, Email: uan@aiusa.org, http://www.amnestyusa.org/, Phone: 202.544.0200, Fax: 202.675.8566

AHRC and RWB on computer crimes as lese majeste

20 11 2009

Also available as กรรมาธิการสิทธิเอเชีย และผู้สื่อข่าวไร้พรมแดน: ทำผิดทางคอมพิวเตอร์ คือทำผิดฐานหมิ่นฯ

On 20 November 2009, the Asian Human Rights Commission released a timely statement on the use of the Computer Crimes Act as a substitute for the lese majeste law and Reporters Without Borders released a report the day before criticizing the use of this and other laws that are meant to control and limit expression: “Harassment and intimidation are constantly employed to dissuade Internet users from freely expressing their views.”

Read the report on RWB at Prachatai, where some extra and useful links are included.

As PPT readers may have noticed, at our pages on Pending Cases and About Us, we also recognized this substitution. Some months ago we began including those charged with “national security” offenses under the Computer Crimes Act along with lese majeste cases.

AHRC mention five cases: the royals health rumors scapegoats Thatsaporn Rattanawongsa (arrested just a couple of days ago), Thiranan Vipuchanun, Khatha Pachachirayapong and Somjet Itthiworakul (arrested earlier in November), Prachatai’s webmaster Chiranuch Premchaiporn, charged back in March, and Suwicha Thakor, arrested in January, convicted in April and sentenced to 20 years jail, reduced to 10 after he finally agreed to plead guilty. RWB list others, including Nat Sattayapornpisut, arrested in October.

AHRC makes some excellent points, noting that negative publicity “over the cases against persons critical of its royal family, or persons claiming to act on the royals’ behalf” has caused the Democrat Party-led government to change tack and downplay lese majeste while using other means to repress and censor. It is added that the Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga remarkably claimed that “Offences against the King, the Queen, the Heir-Apparent or the Regent are considered offences relating to the security of the Kingdom, not ‘lese-majesty’… I am certain that each state as well as Thailand has its own way of interpreting what constitutes offences relating to national security. Therefore, whoever violates the law of the Kingdom will be fairly charged and prosecuted according to the law of the Kingdom.”

As AHRC points out, the Computer Crimes Act “is an excellent substitute” for a repressive government that wants to appear to international community as one that favors the “rule of law.” As is clear, they use this law to harass, intimidate and to lock up those who oppose the national ideology.

AHRC notes that the Computer Crimes Act “was passed in the final hours of the military-appointed proxy legislature following the 2006 coup, and … was designed as a tool to suppress dissent, not responsibly deal with Internet crime in Thailand. Its ambiguous provisions, notably the section under which all these persons have been charged, allow for the prosecution of any type of thought crime on the disingenuous pretext that the crime is one of technology rather than one of expression or of ideas. Therefore, the state can claim that it is bringing people to court for one type of crime, while sending a clear message to a society that the real offence is altogether different.”

Questioning arrests and repression

10 11 2009

Prachatai (10 November 2009) has a post regarding Thai Netizen Network’s statement (“Request for Clarification Regarding The Arrests of Internet Users”; see it here also แถลงการณ์ เรื่อง การร้องขอความชัดเจนกรณีใช้ พ.ร.บ.คอมพิวเตอร์ จับกุมผู้ใช้เน็ตในเดือนตุลาคม 2552) demanding that authorities clarify events surrounding “the recent arrests of internet users, including Nat Sattayapornpisut in whose case the authorities are asked to disclose the means of accessing e-mail accounts and the law that entitled them to do so, ‘since this matter may have violated people’s right to privacy and freedom to communicate’.”

PPT pastes in the TNN statement:

Pursuant to the following cases (bold items highlighted by Thai Netizen Network):

1. On 13 October 2009, Department of Special Investigation (DSI) brought Nat Sattayapornpisut, 27, who has been charged with lèse majesté, to the Court to request initial detention. The request to the Court revealed that DSI had earlier requested permission from the court to access information in the e-mail account of one Emilio Esteban, a 46 year-old Briton living in Spain, who has been publishing contents deemed offensive to the throne on his weblog. Police investigation revealed that during the period of 21-23 July 2009, Nat e-mailed links to offensive 3 clips to Emilio, which were the same clips that are published on his weblog. Subsequently, DSI requested arrest warrant from the Criminal Court. (reference: ASTV Manager newspaper, 15 October 2009 – http://www.manager.co.th/Crime/ViewNews.aspx?NewsID=9520000122735)

2. In late October and early November 2009, the police arrested 3 suspects with the charge of violating Clause 14 of the Computer Crime Act, i.e. “bringing into the computer system such false computer information as may damage national security or cause panic among the populace.” The arrests were made after the spread of rumors in the Stock Exchange of Thailand caused investor panic and the market to plunge between 13-15 October 2009 (reference: Kom Chad Leuk newspaper, 3 November 2009 – http://www.komchadluek.net/detail/20091103/35639/รวบเสี่ยโต๊ะสนุกชลผู้ ต้องหาทุบหุ้นอีก.html)

Thai Netizen Network is of the opinion that the authorities’ access to Mr. Emilio’s e-mail in the first case, and the investigation and prosecution process of suspects in the second, may be an abuse of power and misuse of the Computer Crime Act in ways that violated the right to privacy and freedom of communication, which are protected by virtue of Clause 35 and 36 in the Constitution of Thailand.

In addition, the arrest of 3 suspects in the second case may be the case of suppressing people’s rights and freedom of communication, since the suspects may not know whether the rumor being disseminated was true or false, and he or she may not have intended to harm national security or cause panic. We believe that the only case which may prove that the suspects willfully disseminated false rumors is if they were part of a concerted share manipulation rings, which is a criminal offense under the Securities Act.

Given the aforementioned situation, Thai Netizen Network has the following requests to all relevant authorities:

1. We ask that the authorities disclose the means of accessing Mr. Emilio’s e-mail account and the law that entitled the authorities to do so, since this matter may have violated people’s right to privacy and freedom to communicate;

2. We ask that the authorities disclose the approach they are using in the investigation of share manipulation case, so as not to cause undue panic among Internet users, and be mindful of the people’s rights to expression and communication as guaranteed by the Constitution;

3. We ask that the authorities attempt to arrest the real culprits, not information intermediaries or service providers, since prosecuting intermediaries will result in numerous unwanted economic, social, and cultural consequences. In addition, it will make the arrest of real criminals ever more difficult and cumbersome to undertake, which will further hurt public interest.

Lastly, we would like to call on all mass media and the public to jointly monitor the government’s use of power, and to join us in calling for the reform of Computer Crime Act, especially Clause 14 which is worded so vaguely that it can easily be abused for political gain and suppressing people’s rights and freedoms. We also call for the passage of the law to protect private information, to help public officials and every party involved to distinguish between citizens who merely exercise their right to free expression and criminals who used computers to commit crimes, more correctly and clearly than ever.

With confidence in the right, freedom, and integrity of all citizens,

PPT fully supports the statement. The continued and deepening surveilance of email, the web and other media is cause for considerable concern. Based on all previous evidence, we doubt the present government sees any of this as a problem. Indeed, they seem to congratualte themselves on their increased capacity to censor and repress.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal (9 November 2009: “Taking Stock of Bangkok”) has an editorial on the recent arrests and health rumors witch hunt.

Noting that the 2006 military coup has resulted in “Years of political instability and crippling street protests and violence” and now “some of the most insidious changes … now revealing themselves, such as the effects of the very first law the junta’s assembly passed after taking power, the Computer Crimes Act.”

The editorial also notes the equally insidious use of lese majeste laws.

On the recent health rumor arrests, the WSJ states: “We don’t know whether any of these people violated Thai laws. But we do know that their arrest sends a powerful message to all Thais about the risks they face for posting information online. This is stifling not only to political discussion, but also detrimental to investors at home and abroad who rely on that information to make investment decisions.” And it adds: “Many analysts say that the stock market dip in October took place because of an information vacuum about the health of the King; in such an environment, rumors spread quickly. But the solution is to have more information, not less.”

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