Free Jiew, support Prachatai!

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From Prachatai, more evidence of human rights in the sewer:

Police visit Prachatai office with search and arrest warrants for website moderator
Prachatai, 06 March 2009

On March 6, at 3 pm, seven police officers visited Prachatai office in Bangkok, showing a search warrant and an arrest warrant for Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Prachatai Director.  She is charged with the offense according to Article 15 of the Computer Crime Act.  She has refused to answer any questions, and is waiting for her lawyer.

2007 Computer Crime Act

Article  14. If any person commits any offence of the following acts shall be subject to imprisonment for not more than five years or a fine of not more than one hundred thousand baht or both:

(1) that involves import to a computer system of forged computer data, either in whole or in part, or false computer data, in a manner that is likely to cause damage to that third party or the public;

(2) that involves import to a computer system of false computer data in a manner that is likely to damage the country’s security or cause a public panic;

(3) that involves import to a computer system of any computer data related with an offence against the Kingdom’s security under the Criminal Code;

(4) that involves import to a computer system of any computer data of a pornographic nature that is publicly accessible;

(5) that involves the dissemination or forwarding of computer data already known to be computer data under (1) (2) (3) or (4);

Article 15. Any service provider intentionally supporting or consenting to an offence under Section 14 within a computer system under their control shall be subject to the same penalty as that imposed upon a person committing an offence under Section 14.

Source: ด่วน เจ้าหน้าที่ตำรวจ 2 คันรถ บุกประชาไท พร้อมหมายค้น และหมายจับ จีรนุช เปรมชัยพร ผู้ดูแลเ

And an update:

Prachatai editor: arrest because of comments posted in web-board; bail for Chiranuch being processed
Prachatai, 06 March 2009

Chuwat Rerksirisuk, Prachatai editor, says he has yet to see details of the charge against Prachatai Director Chiranuch Premchaiporn, but only knows that comments posted by readers and left displayed on the web-board led to the arrest.

The police have confiscated Chiranuch’s computer for investigation, and are now copying data in her hard disk.  Assoc Prof Chantana Banpasirichote, political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, is going to the Crime Suppression Division to bail Chiranuch out using her public service position, as the police say the bail would be possible.

The Prachatai editor says he still does not know which comments caused the problem, but will do when the police give Chiranuch the details of the charge later.

Source: บ.ก.ประชาไทเผยข้อความต้นเหตุมาจากเว็บบอร์ด ขณะนี้อยู่ระหว่างดำเนินการประกันตัวจีรนุช

See also:

Crackdown on Prachatai (New Mandala)

AHRC strongly condemns police raid on news outlet (AHRC)

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4 responses to “Free Jiew, support Prachatai!

  1. Pingback: Updated: Prachatai office raided, arrest made « Political Prisoners in Thailand

  2. Another article Not Fit to Print at The Nation:

    The law is the problem

    David Streckfuss/ Prachatai, 13 March 2009

    Thanong Khanthong, in his “Overdrive” column in The Nation of March 6, argues that “there is nothing wrong with the lese majeste law.” The problem, he says, has more to do with enforcement: the law “has been abused by politicians, police and public prosecutors for their own political advantage.”

    Thanong’s argument is very much in line with the views expressed about the law by the prime minister and other top politicians in the past few months. There are six points of contention expressed by Thanong and others that should be challenged.

    Contention 1: There is nothing wrong with the lese majeste law.

    Thanong has gotten it backwards. He says the law is fine, but problems happen with enforcement and abuse. However, in truth it is the law itself that makes its enforcement and abuse so terrible. There are no limits on the law. Anyone can make the charge. Everything can be construed as lese majeste. This is the reason that the law so easily becomes a political tool.

    Contention 2: The lese majeste law is similar to libel laws that protect average citizens.

    The lese majeste law is emphatically not like normal libel laws. All libel laws have exceptions or exclusions, which can include the expression of an honest opinion, fair comment on issues before the public, of speaking for the public good. Most importantly, truth can be entered as evidence. With lese majeste, there are no exclusions whatsoever.

    Contention 3: There needs to be a lese majeste law or else those covered by the law cannot protect their own reputations.

    This is misleading. In Thailand, those covered by lese majeste law (king, queen, heir-apparent) do not use the law to protect their reputations. Instead, it is the police or any number of citizens who use the law ostensibly to protect the reputation of the king, queen, and heir-apparent. However, in Norway it can be said that the king uses the law to protect his reputation, for cases can be pursued only with the consent of the king.

    Contention 4: All constitutional monarchies have a lese majeste law. The Thai lese majeste law is normal.

    True, most constitutional monarchies have a lese majeste law. But there are some important differences that make the Thai lese majeste law unique. Thanong mentions the Netherlands, but fails to point out what the penalty for lese majeste is there. In a recent case, the penalty for someone who had made inappropriate sexual comments about the queen was a 400 euro fine. In Thailand, the penalty is 3 to 15 years’ imprisonment, almost twice as high as anywhere in the past few centuries. If the penalty were increased to 25 years as the Democrat Party suggests, Thailand’s lese majeste law becomes absolutely incomparable. Judging from other constitutional monarchies, it is not in the least “normal.”

    Contention 5: The lese majeste law is designed to protect the truth.

    Thanong says “without any evidence,” “some anti-monarchists have tried to defame” the king concerning Sept. 2006 coup. This implies that were there evidence, then the case could be made. But lese majeste cases do not allow “evidence” about what was said enter into the proceedings. The truth (or falsity) of what was said has never been considered. The only evidence as such concerns the intentions of the accused. To make matters worse, no differentiation is made between “insult” and “defamation” in the law, when charges are drawn up, or when lese majeste cases are tried in court. Lese majeste is like blasphemy or heresy: when prosecuted, the actual contents of what was expressed are examined only to show the malicious intention; it is not intended to determine truth.

    Contention 6: Citizens can criticize the monarchy in a “constructive or academic way. Normal criticism is acceptable.

    Not true. There is no provision in the law, as with regular defamation, that stipulates the monarchy can be criticized, normally or otherwise. In fact, many Thais understand the constitution to say that no reference should be made about the monarchy. Who is to determine what is “constructive” or “academic”? Thanong says that one has “to differentiate between criticism of the monarchy in an objective manner and vandalism, libel or defamation against the monarchy with ill intent.” Ok. So what are some examples where “criticism of the monarchy in an objective manner” was allowed?

    Article 301 of Turkey’s penal code, a lese majeste-like provision, prohibits denigration of Turkishness and Turkish public institutions. But investigations or prosecutions for Article 301 must be first vetted by the court. The law also clearly stipulates that only denigration is prohibited, and not criticism, which receives an exclusion. In Norway, no prosecutions are possible without the approval of the king. Other lese majeste laws provide various exclusions, and some stipulate only defamation and not insult. Even when these various limits fail, the punishment is not so severe.

    For those lese majeste laws in other constitutional monarchies that in letter are similar to Thailand’s, there is little doubt that the law would be changed were the law used as vigorously as it is in Thailand.

    In short, everything is wrong with the lese majeste law in Thailand. It does not protect the institution, but instead suppresses social critics.

    Thanong should be congratulated for bringing up the issue of the law to readers. The prime minister, too, has said that reform of the lese majeste law will be discussed by the cabinet this week. These are encouraging.

    But debate over the law should have some base in reality. The contentions above disregard easily available information from within Thailand and other lands. Thanong and various politicians in the government have put forward the view that enforcement is the problem. Accordingly, the law should not be touched at all: no revision, no abolishment. But this simplistic response should be seriously re-considered. The enforcement will never get better until something is done with the law itself.

    For Thanong, the “core of the issue” is addressed by extolling the virtues of the monarchy, which in part explains why he feels the law is not the problem. The real core of this debate, though, is not the character of the monarchy, nor the ill intentions of those perceived as critical of the institution. What is really at question here is that the very nature of this law makes it prone to abuse, and as such, affects freedom of expression in a democratic Thailand.

    Note: The Nation refused to publish this rebuttal.

    David Streckfuss finished his Ph.D. in Southeast Asian History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His thesis examined defamation-based laws, including the lese majeste law. He can be contacted at dstreckfuss@yahoo.com.

  3. An Oral Statement to the 10th Session of the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organization with general consultative status, supported by Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LWRC)

    (Date: March 17, 2009, Document id: ALRC-COS-10-19-2009, HRC section: Item 4, General Debate)

    ASIA: The human rights situations in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand

    Thank you Mr. President,

    The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) welcomes the announcement that the Chief Justice has been restored in Pakistan. We hope that the restored judiciary will exhibit its independence and begin to address the plethora of ongoing human rights violations in the country, notably widespread forced disappearances in Balochistan and other provinces and the endemic use of torture, including that taking place in at least 52 army-run torture centres. We urge an immediate judicial inquiry into reports of women being arrested, disappeared and used as sex slaves by the army. The country¡¦s rogue intelligence service, the ISI, must be held accountable for its actions, which are destabilising the country and the region.

    The ALRC is gravely concerned by this Council¡¦s inertia concerning the critical situation in Sri Lanka. Given the High Commissioner¡¦s statement that actions by the Sri Lankan military and the LTTE may constitute violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, we wonder what more is needed before this Council will act.

    The ALRC recalls with sadness that March 12th marked the fifth anniversary of the disappearance of prominent Thai human rights defender Somchai Neelaphaijit. Thailand¡¦s new Prime Minster has promised that progress would be made in this case, but none has been witnessed to date.

    Furthermore, the ALRC condemns the police raid on March 6, 2009, on Prachatai, one of the few independent and outspoken media outlets operating in Thailand, and the issuing of an arrest warrant for its director. There can be little room for doubt that this raid is part of systematic actions since the 2006 army coup to intimidate and silence critics, human rights defenders and social activists.

    We also condemn the February 8, 2009, raid on the office of the Working Group on Justice for Peace in Pattani, Southern Thailand, as a clear act of intimidation by the military. This raid on an NGO closely followed media statements by the military branding human rights defenders as insurgents. Defenders have come under greater threat over the last year, including from the increased use of lese majeste (insult or injury to the king) prosecutions, used to prevent defenders and the media from reporting any truths critical of the government as well as from threats by the security forces. Defenders also risk detention in re-education camps.

    Thank you

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