With 6 updates: Chiranuch Premchaiporn detained

24 09 2010

Prachatai has just posted news that Chiranuch Premchaiporn, their editor, has just been detained at Suvarnibhumi Airport. At this time, very little information is known, other than there is an arrest warrant for her from the Khon Kaen provincial court, and after primary details have been reported, she will be taken, via car, to the Khon Kaen police station. The charge against her is not yet known. Chiranuch was returning from the Internet at Liberty 2010 conference in Hungary when she was arrested.

In a separate case, Chiranuch has been charged with ten counts of violating the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. Read about those accusations, for which the trial will begin in February, here.

PPT is very concerned about Chiranuch’s case and well-being, and will post information as it becomes available.

Update 1: The Nation has posted a short account that says the charge against Chiranuch is lese majeste. It also states she was returning from Finland and that she has been taken to Khon Kaen.

Update 2: Prachatai’s report on Chiranuch getting bail is reproduced here:

At about 1 am on 25 Sept, Chiranuch Premchaiporn was granted bail after placing 200,000 baht in cash as a guarantee.  She denied all charges during police interrogation.

She has to report to the police at Khon Kaen Police Station on 24 Oct.

Over a dozen readers of Prachatai in Khon Kaen gathered at the police station to give her moral support.

Sunimit Jirasuk, a local businessman in Khon Kaen, filed the charges with police against Prachatai and Same Sky websites in April 2008 for readers’ comments posted on both websites about the case of Chotisak Onsung [also see here] who refused to stand up for the royal anthem in a cinema and faced police charges.

The provincial court issued an arrest warrant for Chiranuch at the request of police on 8 Sept 2009.

http://freejiew.blogspot.com/ has been set up to tweet updates about Chiranuch’s case.  Jiew is her nickname.

There’s also a report at Reporters Without Borders, calling her arrest “unacceptable.”

Update 3: It seems that Chiranuch was arrested without a summons being issued. See this Prachatai report:

According to Matichon, Pol Lt Col Chachpong Pongsuwan, investigator at Khon Kaen Police Station, said that a lèse majesté charge had been lodged against Chiranuch Premchaiporn since 2008. The case has been vetted by the Provincial Police Board Region 4, and is now being prosecuted by a department of the National Police Bureau. A summons is not necessary in this case because the offence carries a severe penalty.

It seems there is confusion in the various reports as to whether this is a computer crimes case or a lese majeste allegation. It seems the policeman cited above sees the two as essentially the same, and that is effectively how the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime has used the two laws.

Update 4: Chiranuch says: “Finally, I’m free by bail out. Thanks for all support.”

Also check the origins of the case here, where Article 116 (2) of the Thai Criminal Code is cited. It “stipulates that anybody who publicizes verbally or in writing or by any other means in a manner which is not constitutional or not in good faith to affect changes in laws or government by force, to incite unrest among the public, or to persuade people to violate the laws, is subject to a maximum of 7 years imprisonment.”

Update 5: Andrew Marshall’s post is worth a read as is this NY Times report.

Update 6: The Bangkok Post has a useful summary account of the events in Chiranuch’s case.

Continuing censorship

4 06 2010

Readers will be interested in this Mediashift report on recent events and continuing censorship in Thailand.

PBS is an important source of news and opinions in the U.S., so the report is significant. The report comes from Reporters Without Borders.

There’s not a lot of new information – although the short interview with Italian journalist Fabio Polenghi, killed during the government crackdown on red shirt protesters, is worth viewing.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents

1 06 2010

Reporters Sans Frontieres/Reporters Without Borders puts out a very good handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents.  It “offers practical advice and techniques on how to create a blog, make entries and get the blog to show up in search engine results. It gives clear explanations about blogging for all those whose online freedom of expression is subject to restrictions, and it shows how to sidestep the censorship measures imposed by certain governments, with a practical example that demonstrates the use of the censorship circumvention software Tor.”

For those of us who work in the Thai context, in which freedom of expression is routinely curtailed, the handbook offers necessary advice.

Read more about the handbook and download it as a free PDF from the Reporters Sans Frontieres/Reporters Without Borders website.

Tracking lese majeste in the US

7 05 2010

The continuing efforts by Thai politicians and officials, including palace representatives, to stifle discussion of the monarchy has reached the distant shores of the United States.

Reporters Without Borders (7 May 2010) and the World Organization for Human Rights USA (“Human Rights USA”) have issued a statement on the case of Anthony Chai, “an American citizen from California, was interrogated by Thai officials in Thailand and again later in the U.S. for allegedly insulting the monarchy in 2006. Originally from Thailand, Chai was granted US citizenship in the late 1970s. He faces possible arrest if he returns to Thailand.”

Chai is said to have posted to http://www.manusaya.com,  comments about the Thai king that “were traced to Chai’s business computer.” This is tracing someone domiciled in the US. It is added: “It is believed that Chai’s IP address was provided by the web hosting company without his knowledge. In response, the U.S.-based hosting company shut down the website.”

The two organizations expressed outrage and noted that the US government was apparently allowing foreign governments to restrict constitutionally-protected rights.

For those who always claim the palace has no role in lese majeste cases, note that Chai claims that he was interviewed by a team of officials that included a representative of the palace.

RWB on emergency law and reporting

23 04 2010

Reporters Without Borders has issued a statement expressing extreme concern “about the impact on press freedom of the political violence and state of emergency in Thailand and reiterates its appeal to all parties to respect and guarantee the work of the press.” It adds that the “gravity of this crisis reinforces the need to respect the free flow of news and information, without which rumour will triumph over fact…”.

The statement refers to a Japanese cameraman injured in the Silom bombings and to foreign journalists “injured by stones and water bottles thrown by participants in political demonstrations.”

RWB “deplores the decision by the ‘Red Shirts’ to ask journalists to wear a green armband with the words ‘Dissolve parliament’…” printed on it. The organization also “condemns the harassment to which TV journalist Thapanee Letsrichai has been subjected since reporting on Twitter that some soldiers had prevented the police from going after those who may have been responsible for yesterday’s bombings.” See a video on this here.

RWB expresses surprise that courts uphold the “government’s censorship of PTV,” a red shirt station and a similar decision against “legal action brought by Chiranuch [Premchaiporn], the editor of the independent news website Prachatai, against several senior government officials demanding damages because the site has been blocked since 7 April and demanding the lifting of the blocking order on the grounds that it is illegal under article 45 of the constitution, which protects the dissemination of information and opinions. The court ruled that the authorities had not exceeded their powers under the state of emergency.” Censorship and intimidation “are affecting the Internet and the list of banned websites is growing even longer.”

RWB urged the Abhisit Vejjajiva government “to restore access to the censored websites” and to “close media only after verifying that they contain calls for violence and after following the normal judicial procedures.”

Thai authorities were also required “to show the utmost transparency in the investigation into the death [on 10 April] of Japanese journalist Hiro Muramoto, the findings of which are supposed to be released on 26 April.”

RSF on the death of Hiroyuki Muramoto

11 04 2010

Reporters Sans Frontieres has issued a statement about the death of Hiroyuki Muramoto, the Reuters photographer who was killed in yesterday’s violence.

From the statement:

“Muramoto was shot in the chest while covering clashes in the Rajdumnoen Road area of the capital.

Reuters editor-in-chief David Schlesinger said: “I am dreadfully saddened to have lost our colleague Hiro Muramoto in the Bangkok clashes. Journalism can be a terribly dangerous profession as those who try to tell the world the story thrust themselves in the centre of the action. The entire Reuters family will mourn this tragedy.”

Reporters Without Borders calls for an independent investigation into Muramoto’s death, with both an autopsy and a ballistic study conducted in a transparent manner and, if necessary, with the assistance of foreign experts.”

Read the entire statement here: 10 April 2010, “Japanese cameraman fatally shot in clashes between troops and Red Shirts”

Further updated: Suthep’s order to block websites

8 04 2010

Thanks to a reader, here is the order by Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban authorizing the blocking of 36 websites (in PDF form –  Censor websites – and below as images).

Prachatai is #8. It’s English page is back up under a different domain name. The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) report is here.

Update: See FACT’s comment here and Reporters Without Borders here.

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.”

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