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.”

Linking health rumors to Thaksin

4 11 2009

The Nation (5 November 2009: “We’re closing in on rumour-mongers : police”) has a somewhat garbled report on the arrest and bailing of the third suspect in the king’s health rumor case, Somjet Itthiworakul.

The story has some information on Somjet. He is said to be the owner of a snooker bar in Chon Buri who allegedly posted unverified assertions that led to a stock market plunge last week is the link who will lead to the arrest of those behind rumour-mongering and their accomplices, a senior police officer said yesterday.”

Somjet reportedly admitted” posting the items on his computer, but claimed he did not send them out on the Internet…”. It is unclear what this might mean. The police seem to think he did circulate material. When and where is not explained.

The point of the story seems to be that  Somjet ” is a key suspect who is possibly aware of those behind [the rumours]…”. However he seems to have no connection to the other two arrested suspects.

Meanwhile, the attempt to link the rumors to Thaksin Shinawatra continues. Businessman, former Ponzi scheme manipulator and anti-Thaksin activist Ekkayuth Anchanbutr raised the issue of “who had benefited from the plunge on October 14 as a result of rumours, especially in state-regulated funds including the Social Security Office and the Government Pension Fund.” He said “a person identified as Jor who managed an overseas stock market and was a relative of powerful people living outside Thailand who had bought large quantities of stocks.”He says these people made “a Bt5-billion profit as a result of Jor’s acts…”.


Third king’s health rumor suspect arrested

3 11 2009

NNT (3 November 2009: Third stock rumor makers nabbed”) reports that police “arrested the third suspect who allegedly circulated inauspicious rumors about the health of His Majesty the King which resulted in the recent plummeting of the Thai stock market.” Great quote this – inauspicious-ness is now a crime?

The arrest is said to have been made ” after the court’s warrant was issued by the South Bangkok Criminal Court for Mr Somjet Itthiworakul, who was charged with violating Section 14 of the Computer-Related Crime Act BE 2550 by feeding false statements in the computer network that caused harm to national security and the public.” Somjet was “arrested in Chon Buri province and was currently taken to Bangkok for further questioning.”

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