A group of MPs from the opposition Democrat Party have proposed a draft legislation that would penalise people making defamatory remarks or contemptuous tones against the monarchy on the Internet or via computers.
The proposed law would also punish those who wrongly accuse or attempt to frame up others of such a wrongdoing.
Under the proposed law, anyone putting inaccurate content about the monarchy on the Internet or a computer system faces a jail term of between three to 20 years or a fine ranging from Bt200,000 (£3800) to Bt800,000 (£15,400).
Those uploading defamatory or contemptuous content about the monarchy face an imprisonment of five to 20 years or a fine of between Bt300,000 to Bt800,000.
The law will also punish anyone falsely accusing others of such wrongdoings, with imprisonment of three to 20 years and a fine ranging from Bt200,000 to Bt800,000.
The law also seeks to punish people hiring others to do the job for them, the Internet service provider or computer system administrator who fails to cooperate, as well as repeat offenders.
Boonsong Chaisinghananon, a Silapakorn University philosophy lecturer, said the amendments were more likely to serve or be exploited by the Democrats and the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which has often accused others of insulting the
The proposers rejected a political movitation behind the amendments and said the ICT minister appoint military personnel to help track internet violators.
Harry Nicolaides is languishing in Bangkok Remand Centre, yet to face trial, over a few sentences in an unread novel.
On August 31 this year, Nicolaides was at Bangkok airport waiting to board a flight to Melbourne when he was detained by Thai police on charges of lese majeste, the crime of insulting the monarchy. The arrest warrant alleged Nicolaides had
insulted the Thai royal family in his second book, Verisimilitude , a novel Nicolaides self-published in Thailand in 2005.
For the past 82 days, Nicolaides has been held at the Bangkok Remand Prison, where he shares one toilet with up to 60 other prisoners, including men accused of violent and sexual crimes. He was only formally charged yesterday.
He has retracted the book and publicly apologised to the royal family and the Thai people for any offence caused by his reckless choice of words, but bail has been denied three times.
Few novels as commercially unsuccessful as Verisimilitude — only seven copies were sold — can have caused so much strife for their authors. The alleged offence is believed to concern three sentences in the book in which the narrator refers to
rumours concerning the romantic life of an unspecified crown prince.
It is simply one of the most bizarre cases I've ever come across, says Arnold Zable, author and president of the Melbourne branch of International PEN, an organisation that campaigns on behalf of writers in detention around the world.
Nicolaides' case is more unusual than the average unusual case, says Dr David Streckfuss, a historian from the University of Wisconsin who lives in Thailand and specialises in the country's lese majeste laws: It's not clear that any
Thai ever read the book in the first place.
When he published Verisimilitude three years ago, Nicolaides took the precaution of sending his book to the National Library, the Thai Ministry of Culture, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Bureau of the Royal Household to check that
its contents were acceptable. He received no response. When his book was released no one reviewed it and hardly anyone read it. Only 50 copies were printed. There was nothing to suggest that the novel, which was only published in English, hadn't
sunk directly into deep obscurity.
But Thai authorities issued a warrant for Nicolaides' arrest on March 17 this year. He was not told he was under investigation. Between March and August, Nicolaides left and re-entered Thailand five times with no sign of trouble. When he was
pulled aside by police at passport control on the night of August 31 he was, his brother, Forde Nicolaides, says, alarmed. When Australian embassy staff arrived and explained the allegations, he was absolutely astonished.
Reporters Without Borders repeated its call for the release of Australian author Harry Nicolaides, facing a charge of the crime of lese-majesty, after he was yesterday refused bail by the Bangkok criminal court for the fourth time.
Nicolaides, aged 41, who was formally charged on 21 November 2008, has been held at the capital's remand prison since 31 August. The charge relates to his book, Verisimilitude, which came out in 2005 in which he referred to the way an unamed
Crown Prince treated one of his mistresses. Only 50 copies were ever printed.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the ongoing legal harassment of BBC correspondent Jonathan Head. Police Lt. Col. Wattanasak Mungkandee filed a third criminal complaint this year against Head on December 23, alleging he had insulted
the Thai monarchy in his reporting.
The latest charges are related to a December 3 article in which Head speculated that the royal palace and figures close to the palace may have provided tacit backing to anti-government protest group the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD),
which laid siege to Bangkok's main international and domestic airports from November 26 to December 3.
Thai law allows any citizen to bring complaints against anyone they believe has insulted the country's monarchy. Wattanasak has brought all three complaints against Head in his personal capacity rather than as a senior ranking police official,
according to Head. Violations of lese majeste laws are a criminal offense in Thailand, punishable by three to 15 years imprisonment.
It is time for prosecutors and investigators in Thailand to immediately drop these outrageous and punitive charges against our colleague Jonathan Head, said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator: Head's reporting has raised
important questions about Thailand's deteriorating political situation and he should be allowed to report without fear of official reprisals.
Local and foreign journalists have been under attack this year as a political crisis led to three changes of government in as many months. Head, a well-respected figure in Thai journalism has specifically been targeted. The first complaint
against Head was filed on April 9, and was related to comments the reporter made in December 2007 while moderating another event at the FCCT titled Coup, Capital, and Crown . The discussion touched on the monarchy's role in Thai society in
light of the 2006 military coup. The second complaint against Head, filed on May 30, included charges that his reporting over a two-year period had intended to criticize the monarchy several times and that his writings have damaged and
insulted the reputation of the monarchy, according to an English-language translation of the charges obtained by CPJ.
The May 30 complaint against Head cited 11 different articles from the BBC's Web site, several of which he did not author. Thai authorities have in recent months cracked down on hundreds of Web sites for posting materials considered offensive to
the monarchy. Both the complaints are still pending.
At the dawn of 2009, many sighed with relief that, for whatever reason, a big political hurdle has been overcome. The new Administration led by Abhisit Vejjajiva, however, has pledged to prioritize suppression of any offence related to defamation
of the monarch.
Many political dissidents have been entangled in l่se majest้ litigation in the past year. Some have been granted bail, including Sondhi Limthongkul, Sulak Sivaraksa, and Veera Musikpong, while others ran away, including Chucheep
Cheevasuth, and Suchart Nagabangsai. This dubious charge was also laid against persons such as Jitra Kotchadet, a union leader, and Chotisak On-soong, a student. A charge against Jonathan Head, BBC correspondent, also raised many eyebrows,
whereas others were arrested and quietly held in custody including Phraya Pichai and Thonchan , the two infamous web bloggers.
But some have already spent part of their lives behind bars including Ms. Daranee Chancherngsilpakul, aka Dar Torpedo, serving 6 years in jail, and Ms. Boonyuen Prasertying, two stars at the Sanam Luang political rallies.
This does not yet include Harry Nicolaides, an Aussie writer. Pending trial, these three alleged offenders have been languishing in jail for months. None of the Thai media has paid the slightest attention to their plight. Unlike many others, they
have been denied bail. It could be said that their cases have already been decided by society.
A Thai academic who is facing charges of insulting the monarchy called for a campaign to abolish the law under which he could be jailed for 15 years.
Ji Ungpakorn, a prominent activist and political scientist at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, said police have asked to question him over a book he wrote about Thailand's 2006 military coup.
His case is the latest sign of ideological struggle over the role of the monarchy, a subject that was once taboo. There has been a recent spate of complaints and prosecutions for lese majeste — as the charge is called — and increased
censorship of Web sites allegedly critical of the institution.
Ji said at a news conference that the lese majeste law, which mandates a jail term of three to 15 years for defaming the king, the queen or the heir to the throne, restricts freedom of speech and expression and does not allow for public
accountability and transparency of the institution of the monarchy.
He charged that it is used as a tool by the military, and other authoritarian elites, in order to protect their own interests. He claimed he was being targeted for political reasons because he criticized the military and its coup.
Newly elected Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has promised to take all measures to prevent people from defaming the monarchy.
Reporters Without Borders deplores today's arrest of Internet user Suwicha Thakhor on a charge of insulting the monarchy (lese majeste), just one day after Thai Netizen Network, a group that defends online freedom of expression, met with
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and suggested ways to reach a compromise on Internet regulation, including the issue of lese majeste.
This arrest gives the government the opportunity to demonstrate its readiness to maintain a real dialogue by keeping a close watch on the conduct of the investigation, Reporters Without Borders said. We urge the government to do
everything possible to ensure that Thakhor is released as soon as the authorities establish that he has not done anything that violates democratic norms.
The Department of Special Investigations said Thakhor was arrested because his computer's Internet address matched the address from which comments about the king and his aides had been sent. He was picked up by the police while visiting friends
in the provinces. The authorities say they suspect he knew the police were after him and that he left the capital for this reason.
Thakhor, who is being held at Department of Special Investigations headquarters in Bangkok, has denied the charges.
A court in Thailand has sentenced an Australian author to three years in jail after finding him guilty of insulting the country's royal family.
Appearing in a Bangkok court, Harry Nicolaides, had pleaded guilty to the charges, related to a 2005 novel he authored which reportedly sold just seven copies.
He was convicted under Thailand's lese majeste laws, designed to protect the royal family but which activists say are outdated and stifle free speech.
Passing the court's verdict, the judge initially sentenced Nicolaides to six years in jail, but reduced the sentence to three years because of his guilty plea.
Speaking in court earlier, Nicolaides, who was shackled at the ankles and wore a prison uniform, said he had endured unspeakable suffering since his arrest five months ago and that the case had taken a toll on his health and family.
The case comes as Thai authorities step up prosecutions under the country's controversial laws on lese majeste or insulting the monarchy, which mandates a severe sentence for whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir
to the throne or the regent.
Nicolaides, who lived in Thailand from 2003-2005 and taught in the northern city of Chiang Rai, was arrested in August at Bangkok's international airport as he was about to board a flight home to Melbourne. The author was unaware of a warrant
issued in March for his arrest in connection with his novel, Verisimilitude , rights group Reporters Without Borders said.
On the day of his conviction he said, from behind bars : This is an Alice in Wonderland experience. I really believe that I am going to wake up and all of you will be gone, This can’t be real. It feels like a bad dream, he went on, choking back tears. I respect the king of Thailand. I was aware there were obscure laws but I didn’t think they would apply to me.” During his time in jail he
had endured “unspeakable suffering, he said, but would not elaborate.
Thai police have charged an outspoken academic with insulting the royal family in a book, the accused professor said.
Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a political science professor, said he was formally charged under the kingdom's harsh lese majeste laws protecting the monarchy from defamation.
The academic told AFP he was was charged over the content of my anti-military coup book, A Coup for the Rich. The charges seem to have arisen out of a complaint made by the Chulalongkorn University book shop to the police, said Giles, a Thai national who teaches there.
He has 20 days to make a statement to the police, who will then decide whether to forward the case to the courts for trial.
Thailand's Senate has resolved to set up an extraordinary committee to strictly enforce laws in the name of protection of the monarchy following an increasing number of websites found to be offensive to the royal institution.
The Senate voted 90 to 17 to set up an extraordinary panel to follow up on the enforcement of laws and articles relating to the protection of the monarchy is to be headed by national police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwan.
Currently, there are over 10,000 websites deemed offensive to the monarchy. The Information and Communication (ICT) Ministry has been able to block only 2,000 sites.
The Justice Ministry will coordinate with the Foreign Ministry to launch a campaign among foreigners to educate them about lese majeste laws.
Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga said he would coordinate with the Foreign Ministry to instruct all Thai embassies abroad to launch public relations campaigns about lese majeste laws which impose harsh punishments on those who insult the
Australia asked Thailand to pardon a writer from Melbourne who received three years in prison for insulting the royal family in three sentences of a novel that sold seven copies.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith made the request in a letter to his Thai counterpart after Harry Nicolaides pleaded guilty this week to defaming the head of state, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and his son.
Now that the legal processes before Thailand’s courts have concluded, Australian officials have advised Thai officials that the Australian government strongly supports Mr. Nicolaides’s pardon application, Smith said in a
The government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, which took power last month after backing a royalist protest group, is cracking down on Web sites that insult the king, a crime punishable by as many as 15 years in prison.
Thailand has received the pardon request from Australia’s government and will process it in a timely manner, Tharit Charungvat, Foreign Ministry spokesman, said.
The latest issue of The Economist will be withheld from distribution in Thailand for the third time in two months because of its coverage of the country's monarchy, the magazine said.
The British magazine's Thai distributor, Asia Books, refused to deliver copies of its Jan. 31 issue because the article might break the country's strict law against insulting the royal family, the magazine said in an email to subscribers.
The Jan. 31 issue contains an article, entitled A sad slide backwards, that criticizes Thailand for alleged abuse of Muslim migrants from Myanmar known as the Rohingya.
Their plight gained international attention after several boats carrying around 1,000 migrants were intercepted in December by the Thai navy. Human rights groups allege that Thai officers detained and beat them before forcing them back to sea in
vessels with no engines and little food or water. Hundreds are believed to have drowned. Thai authorities have repeatedly denied the allegations.
The article's criticism was largely directed at the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Thai military in its handling of the migrants. It made only passing mention of the taboo subject of royal involvement in Thai politics.
A leading Bangkok-based professor who has joint British and Thai nationality fled Thailand at the weekend in the face of a lengthy sentence under the country's draconian lese-majesty laws, which forbid criticism of the king.
Giles Ji Ungpakorn arrived in England at the weekend after being charged under the laws. He had been due to present himself to the police in Bangkok today and could have faced 15 years in jail if found guilty.
I did not believe I would receive a fair trial, said Ungpakorn, an associate professor of political science at Chulalongkom University and a contributor to the New Statesman and Asian Sentinel.
Ungpakorn is the author of A Coup for the Rich , in which he criticises the 2006 military coup. He said that the charges arose out of eight paragraphs in the first chapter deemed insulting to King Bhumibol. He claimed that the director of
a university bookshop stocking his book had informed the special branch that it insulted the monarchy. The offending paragraphs deal with incidents around the coup.
The English chapter of PEN, the international writers' organisation, has written to Bill Rammell, the UK Foreign Office minister who is due to visit Thailand, urging him to make representations to the Thai government.
Carole Seymour-Jones of PEN said: We remain deeply concerned by the increased use of lese-majesty laws in Thailand. Giles is the second New Statesman contributor to have faced such charges in recent months, the first being the Australian
writer Harry Nicolaides, sentenced to three years in prison on 19 January.
Academics from the UK, India, South Africa, Turkey, France, Greece, Poland, Canada, Australia and other countries have also protested. A group, including Professor Alex Callinicos, Susan George and Dennis Brutus have signed a petition expressing
deep concern. In a letter to the Guardian recently, more than 30 academics urged that charges be dropped.
On the same day that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told a meeting of news editors of his intention to restore Thailand's press freedom reputation, police officials raided the offices and arrested the executive director of a popular online
news site, Prachatai.
Prachatai's executive director Chiranuch Premchaiporn was arrested when a group of five or six Crime Suppression Division police officials entered the Web site's Bangkok offices. Officers also took copies of the hard drives of some of the
office's computers. Chiranuch was later released on bail.
The director was charged under national security-related articles 14 and 15 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act for postings apparently critical of the Thai royal family made on one of the site's boards, according to Prachatai. It is unclear if
Chiranuch would also be charged under the country's lese majeste law, which criminalizes any criticism of the royal family. Guilty convictions are punishable with a maximum of 15 years in prison.
We call upon the relevant authorities to immediately cease and desist from harassing all online journalists and commentators like Chiranuch Premchaiporn, said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia Program Director : Thailand has unleashed one of the
most aggressive crackdowns on Internet freedom seen anywhere in Asia and we strongly urge them to reverse course.
Prachatai has developed a reputation for independent reporting, particularly through its hard-hitting reports on the conflict between government forces and Muslim rebels in the country's three southernmost provinces. The site was threatened with
closure last year because of comments deemed harmful to the monarchy posted to one of the site's online public forums.
Suwicha Thakhor has spent two months in a Thai prison, accused by police of insulting the royal family. He says he should be allowed to express an opinion.
Arrested Jan. 14 and charged in connection with material posted on the Internet, the 34-year-old oil engineer said: We have to be able to think freely. They cannot stop ideas by sending people to jail.
More than a dozen similar cases are pending under Thai law as a widening political divide prompts discussion on the future role of the monarchy.
The lese-majeste law is no different from contempt-of- court laws where you protect institutions that are neutral, that have no self-defense mechanism, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva claimed, he told reporters the law would be reviewed
to make it clearer.
Suwicha, wearing a prison-issued yellow shirt emblazoned with a royal insignia, said his views on the monarchy changed after the coup that deposed Thaksin. Police tracked his Web postings, which he wouldn’t discuss, and read his e-mails, he said.
He was arrested after dropping his kids off at school.
In the past, people fled to the jungle to share their political beliefs, Suwicha said, referring to a Communist insurgency in the 1970s that was suppressed by the government: Now we have Web sites. If they want to stop it, they must
stop the technology itself.
Suwicha, who has twice been denied bail, said he’s hoping for a miracle. If freed, he plans to work on a farm and live a private life. Still, he makes no apologies for his beliefs.
A Thai internet user has been sentenced to 10 years in jail for violating strict laws against insulting the monarchy.
A court in Bangkok said Suwicha Thakho digitally altered images of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his family and posted them on the internet.
The court did not say how the pictures were changed or where they appeared, but local media cited YouTube.
Thailand's royal family is sheltered from public debate by some of the world's most stringent lese-majeste laws, as the police and army try to suppress what they fear is a rising tide of anti-monarchy sentiment.
On April 1st, Aree Jiworarak, of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, said the Ministry's recently established Internet Security Operations Centre (ISOC) had blocked over 7,000 improper URLs or web pages, which included 1,403
culturally and morally offensive pornographic pages.
Now the Ministry is investigating the case of the pornographic animation clip Ninja Love which was posted at mthai website, and is trying to find the poster for prosecution.
Chiranuch Premchaiporn, webmaster of independent Thai online news portal Prachatai, was arrested March 6 under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act. Her charges resulted from allowing comments posted by readers of Prachatai’s online discussion fora
alleged to be lèse majesté.
On April 7, Chiranuch was called to Royal Thai Police headquarters for further investigation. Thai police laid nine new charges against Chiranuch resulting from the information she herself gave them after her arrest.
Police claim the alleged illegal postings were allowed to remain on Prachatai for periods of one to fifteen days. Police consider each posting to be a separate violation of the computer law even though these were removed promptly after
notification by Thailand’s ICT ministry.
None of the webboard posters have been arrested possibly as it is beyond the data retention period when IP addresses can be traced.
Additional charges under the cybercrime law mean that Chiranuch is facing 50 years in prison for comments she did not create and not self-censoring webboard posts fast enough for government censors.
Police also told Chiranuch that six more persons will be charged later this month under the computer act.
The Economist has again decided not to distribute its magazine in Thailand this week because of coverage of the Thai monarchy.
In an email to subscribers the magazine confirmed: Due to the sensitive nature of our coverage on the Thai monarchy, we decided not to distribute the April 18th 2009 issue of The Economist in Thailand.
This week's magazine appears to have two Thailand related articles although the sensitive article is entitled The trouble with Thailand's King . It is sure to thrust Thailand's lese majeste laws into the global spotlight once again.
This is the third edition of the magazine this year to suffer distribution problems this year.
I posted a video of the king on the Internet, Suwicha Thakor told Reporters Without Borders from behind a plexiglas screen in Bangkok’s Klong Prem prison on 20 April. The police should have told me what I was doing was wrong. It is not
right to be sentenced to 10 years in prison for this. I am not a problem for the country or its security. I am in prison for nothing.
Suwicha was given the 10-year sentence on 3 April on a charge of lese majeste. Reporters Without Borders wrote to the king yesterday asking him to grant Suwicha a royal pardon.
Reporters Without Borders and 31 other human rights, press freedom and journalists organisations have issued a joint appeal to the Thai government for a revision of article 112 of the Thai criminal code on lese majeste.
Since a new government took over last December, the authorities have stepped up enforcement of the lese majeste law and the Internet has been one of the leading victims. Access to more than 50,000 websites is currently blocked because of content
critical of the monarchy. Around ten people are being prosecuted (or have been prosecuted) for lese majeste and two of them have been convicted. The crime of lese majeste is punishable by three to 15 years in prison.
Call to the Prime Minister to review the lese majeste law:
We, human rights groups, journalists and the victims of arbitrary lese majeste prosecutions appeal to Thai authorities to review criminal code article 112 on national security offences, under which any defamatory, insulting
or threatening comments about the king, queen, crown prince or regent is deemed to be a crime of lese majeste punishable by three to 15 years in prison.
Access to more than 50,000 webpages has been blocked because of content critical of the monarchy, some 10 people are currently being prosecuted on lese majeste charges, at least two are in prison, and more held without bail.
The human rights group Amnesty International has condemned the secret trial in Thailand of a woman charged with insulting the royal family.
The woman was arrested a year ago after giving a speech in Bangkok in which she attacked the monarchy. People in Thailand who have listened to the speech say they have never heard anything like it. Daranee Charncherngsilpakul took to the stage at
a protest in central Bangkok in June last year and sharply criticised the monarchy. She even made personal attacks on the country's revered King Bhumipol Adulyadej, warning him that the monarchy would be overthrown by a popular revolution.
Given the severe penalties for insulting the monarchy in Thailand, no-one was surprised when Ms Daranee was arrested shortly afterwards.
Her trial, however, which started this week, has alarmed human rights groups.
Red-shirt protesters in Bangkok on 12 April 2009. The presiding judge ordered hearings to be held in secret, citing national security concerns. Her lawyer is appealing, on the grounds that Thailand's constitution guarantees defendants the right
to a public trial.
Sam Zarifi from Amnesty International has warned that when a judge closes the doors on a trial it significantly raises the risk of injustice taking place. The Thai government will have a very difficult time explaining why the trial of someone
charged with making an insulting remark could compromise Thailand's national security.
Ms Daranee faces between nine and 45 years in prison if she is convicted.
Distributors blocked the July 4-10 edition of The Economist from entering Thailand for an article that covered the mounting threat of lese majeste complaints to the country's Internet freedom and freedom of expression, according to a local
distributor and international news reports.
This is the third time since December that distributors have opted not to distribute the British weekly newsmagazine because of concerns over its coverage of the monarchy, according to a distributor who spoke on condition of anonymity with CPJ.
The Economist has more than 2,500 paid subscribers in Thailand and is also distributed by various newsstands and book stores.
The one-page article, Treason in cyberspace, noted that the scope of investigations under the law has recently widened and that Thai authorities have used the law as justification for blocking more than 8,300 Web pages since March 2008. It
also referenced the lese majeste case pending against Chiranuch Premchaiporn, editor of online news site Prachatai, who is charged for allowing a comment critical of Queen Sirikit to be posted by a reader to her site's message board. Because she
faces multiple criminal counts for perceived anti-monarchy postings, The Economist reported, she could face as long as 50 years in prison. The article also discussed the lese majeste complaint, filed by a private citizen, against the entire board
of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.
Authorities have not formally banned The Economist's distribution in Thailand and the following week's edition of the magazine was available on local newsstands, according to CPJ research.
The growing use of lese majeste charges has had an unmistakable chilling effect on freedom of expression in Thailand, said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney: We call on the authorities to amend these laws so that journalists and those
who distribute their work are not cowed into self-censorship.
A group of Thai politicians and generals have accused a Times journalist of insulting the country's monarchy by reporting comments by Thaksin Shinawatra — an offence that carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
The complaint against Richard Lloyd Parry, the Asia editor of The Times, derives from an interview with Thaksin that was published in Monday's newspaper and on Times Online the day before.
According to the Bangkok Post, members of a group of Thai monarchists called Siam Samakkhi (United Siam) have made an allegation of lèse-majesté against Thaksin and Lloyd Parry. The Government blocked parts of Times Online
from being accessed within the country.
Kasit Piromya, the Foreign Minister, said: Thaksin's interview is a violation of the monarchy, which is the country's core pillar and a highly respected institution. It is unacceptable and should have never taken place.
It is not clear which parts of the interview led to the complaint by four members of Siam Samakkhi. They include Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn, a critic of Thaksin, and General Somchet Boonthanom, the former head of the Thai Council for National
Thailand must halt a backward slide on freedom of expression after a sharp rise in cases of people accused of insulting the revered monarchy, a leading rights group said.
Amnesty International said it welcomed a panel established by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in December to scrutinise the enforcement of Thailand's tough lese majeste laws, which carry a jail term of up to 15 years.
But the London-based group said the government should suspend the use of the law until it has scrapped provisions allowing any citizen to report another for alleged violations, and urged Thai authorities to stop censoring websites.
Amnesty International supports the prime minister's new initiative, and encourages the Royal Thai government to amend the lese majeste law so that it complies with international law and standards, an Amnesty statement said.
The group highlighted two cases since April 2009 in which Thai nationals received heavy jail sentences for allegedly defaming the royals and said that hundreds of other cases of alleged lese majeste remained active.
It said many people charged under the law had also been charged under the computer crimes act, leading to a big increase in monitoring of the Internet for any material that allegedly defames the royal family.
Amnesty said it was also concerned that the law had been characterised by the government as a matter of national security, allowing cases to be held behind closed doors.
The group said it acknowledged the nation's considerable progress under 82-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, especially in human rights, but said this made the recent roll-back in freedom of expression of even greater concern .
On February 5 an unidentified man was arrested for comments he posted to a webboard. His house was searched, his computer confiscated as evidence, his family frightened, and friends panicked. These are ordinary people who express opinions that
the authorities consider dangerous, and the mainstream media never allows. The Internet is their only outlet.
The police released this man on February 6, told him to stop making comments on the webboard, and they will let the case go away quietly.
How many other cases there are there like this one? It is a perfect method of intimidation and creating fear without having to do the paper work to the end, not having to bother the court, and without public attention. Many Thais now say they
will withdraw from the internet exchanges, at least for a long while.
The government announced last month (Jan 2010) that they would set up a committee to oversee the cases to prevent the abuses of the law. During the past year, the convictions in three cases were severe (18, 10 and 7 years of prison).
A dozen more people were arrested, charged for lèse majesté, either by the lèse majesté law or under the Computer Crimes Act 2007 which is a lèse majesté law in disguise. The CCA has not been used against
pornography or identity theft but solely for lèse majesté. Four recent arrests were for translating news from Bloomberg about the monarch's health, for spreading so-called inauspicious rumours after the downturn in the Thai
An unconfirmed source reports there are about 200 lèse majesté cases in court at the moment. We can imagine how widespread the intimidation and fear is.
One of the world's most popular English-language news publications will not be distributed in Thailand this week because of an article on the nation's monarchy.
In an email issued to subscribers, the UK-based magazine The Economist, said that due to the sensitive nature of the publication's coverage of the Thai monarchy, the March 20th edition will not be distributed in the South East Asian country.
There were no indications that the online edition of The Economist would be affected.
The article in question examines concerns in Thailand over the question of potential royal succession and how it relates to recent political unrest in the country.
Friday's self-censorship by The Economist marks the fourth time since late 2008 that the publication has been pulled from circulation in the Thai kingdom over a story about the nation's monarchy.
Thailand has protested to the Australian government over the airing of a documentary critical of the Thai royal family and warned that the broadcast could affect ties between the nations.
A senior representative from the Thai embassy met with officials from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs o express his concern at the programme, Foreign Correspondent , aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
The concern is that it might affect the good relations between Thailand and Australia, especially the people to people relations, Saksee Phromyothi, minister-counsellor at the Royal Thai Embassy, told AFP: We consider this an issue
matter of national security... because the royal family, the monarchy, in our constitution is above politics.
Thailand's ambassador designate Kriangsak Kittichaisaree has also written to ABC managing director Mark Scott to complain about the programme which could breach Thailand's lese-majeste laws which prohibit criticism of the royals: I regret that
an organisation of the ABC's stature has lowered its own standard by airing the said documentary which is presented in a manner no different from tabloid journalism .
A spokesman for Australia's Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed that Thai embassy officials had complained about the ABC programme but said: The Australian government does not and cannot control content run by Australian media
The Thai cabinet has approved the creation of a new cyber crime agency to stamp out online criticism of the revered monarchy.
The government, which has blocked tens of thousands of web pages in recent years for insulting the royal family, said the main task of the Bureau of Prevention and Eradication of Computer Crime would be to prevent criticism of the monarchy.
Under the kingdom's strict lese majeste rules, insulting the monarchy or a member of the royal family can result in jail terms of up to 15 years. Anyone can file a lese majeste complaint, and police are duty-bound to investigate it.
And under Thailand's computer crime law, introduced in 2007, acts of defamation and posting false rumours online are punishable by five years in jail and a fine of 100,000 baht.
Thai authorities had already been closely scrutinising online comments about the monarchy since the Red Shirt campaign. Campaigning for changes in Thai democracy is seen by the Thai authorities as very close to criticism of the monarchy.
On May 9, Thai Information Ministry MICT and the Thai emergency law enforcers CRES admitted to blocking at least 50,000 websites and adding 500 more per day. Thai anti-censorship campaigners, FACT's, extensive testing across Thai ISPs has
revealed that ISPs are blocking at least a further 15,000 bringing the total to more than 65,000. In the second week of May, CRES announced blocking of 770 new websites; on May 26, CRES announced blocking of 1,150 more. If we add these new
figures to 46,000 websites, Thailand is blocking at least 113,000 websites!
On June 17, Thailand's new ICT minister announced a blacklist of 200 persons banned from posting to the Internet. This restriction was undefined but presumably all sites bearing these names will be blocked. Although the names of former PM office
minister Jakrapob Penkair and Chulalongkorn University professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn, both in exile over lèse majesté charges, are known to be on the blacklist, the rest of the list is secret.
Included in the announcement of the blacklist on June 17, government is threatening to take charge of websites it doesn't like!
Criticism over Thailand's efforts to curb political debate online is mounting as the government restricts thousands of websites following deadly protest clashes earlier this year.
Thai authorities say they have blocked at least 40,000 Web pages this year, according to the government's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, which monitors the Internet. Free-speech activists say authorities are blocking at
least 110,000 sites, based on government disclosures and spot checks online.
Many of the sites feature criticism of the government or debates about Thailand's revered monarchy, a taboo subject here. As a result, some advocates say Thailand—long seen as a relative haven of free speech in Asia—is becoming one of the
least-free states in a region that includes China and Myanmar, when it comes to discourse online
Thai authorities have used their emergency powers to block domestic access to the WikiLeaks whistleblower website on security grounds, a government official said Wednesday.
The order came from the government unit set up to oversee the response to political unrest that rocked the nation's capital earlier this year, a spokeswoman for the Information and Communication Technology Ministry said.
Access to this website has been temporarily suspended under the 2005 emergency decree, she said.
The Wikileaks block has yet to filter through, and for the moment, Wikileaks continues to be available to some in Thailand.
There is speculation that this action is more about toadying to the US who are pissed off about the Afghan War leaks.
WikiLeaks has launched ThaiLeaks, a web page of downloadable ‘magnet links’ to Thailand news items. The whistleblower announced the launch of the new page today on Twitter. It said even if the new page is blocked citizens will still be able to
access information through the links which can be sent in e-mails, instant messages, even printed on paper, in order to keep information flowing.
Press freedom in Thailand, especially for broadcast media such as community radio stations and Web boards, has palpably deteriorated over the past six years, lamented Roby Alampay, outgoing executive director of the Southeast Asean Press
The Internet over the past six years has played a crucial role in allowing people to debate and air their views, Alampay said, adding that things had become more personal when users began facing censorship, state monitoring and the
threat of prosecution over content in their e-mails or social networking sites. Print media fortunately remain very vibrant and free, he added.
Alampay told The Nation that Thais have to be mindful about the growing legal constraints that curb freedom of press and expression.
Six years ago, Thaksin Shinawatra was no friend of the media , but was put in check by the courts, Alampay said. Now, after political and military upheaval, there is Abhisit Vejjajiva.
You have a prime minister who benefited from political and military upheavals, and he says all the right things about press freedom, but in the background, there's a lot of trouble, he said.
For example, he said, the current Computer Crime Act was dangerous because the authorities were exploiting its harsh penalties and weaknesses. Then there's the spate of arrests under the lese majeste law.
When Abhisit first came to power, he told society not to worry about the law , but Alampay said things have turned out to be quite disappointing and unfortunately got worse under the current administration.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the arrest of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, editor of the popular Thailand news website Prachatai, on charges of insulting the royal family.
Prachatai said police at Suvarnabhumi Airport detained Chiranuch as she arrived from Hungary, where she had attended an Internet freedom conference. Police confirmed the arrest in comments to Matichon, a Thai-language daily newspaper.
Her arrest stems from comments posted to Prachatai in 2008 that were allegedly in violation of the Computer Crime Act and lese majeste laws.
We urge Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to release journalist Chiranuch Premchaiporn immediately and unconditionally, said Shawn W. Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. The government should stop using anti-crown
charges to suppress legitimate criticism.
The trial has started of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, executive director of the Thailand-based independent news Web site Prachatai. She stands accused of 10 different violations of the country's draconian 2007 Computer Crime Act (CCA), each of which
carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
The case centers on comments posted by users of a Prachatai Web board that authorities have charged were defamatory of the Thai monarchy--a criminal offense under Thai law. Chiranuch has been charged under the CCA's Section 15, which pertains to
the liability of online intermediaries, including Internet service providers (ISPs) and webmasters.
Prosecution witness Aree Jivorarak, head of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology's (MICT) said in his testimony that when his office brought the comments to Chiranuch's attention she immediately deleted them in her
capacity as the Web board's moderator.
Chiranuch told CPJ that Prachatai's online forums received thousands of comments daily in 2008--when the alleged CCA violations occurred--and that it was impossible to police instantly every comment that was posted.
Defense witnesses are expected to argue in upcoming hearings that the CCA's Section 15 is out of step with laws governing intermediary liability in many Western countries and that the Thai law applies unreasonable obligations to webmasters.
Two United Special Rapporteurs have sent Thailand a letter of allegation concerning the case of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, the webmaster on trial in Bangkok for charges of lese-majesty and computer crime.
According to the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekkaggya in her annual report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, she sent the letter together with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, on October
The February 28 report quotes a reply from the government of Thailand that the case was brought on the basis that views that are disrespectful of the monarchy, or advocate hatred or hostile feelings towards this important national institution,
or those which incite hatred or violence are generally unacceptable in the Thai society .
In a second letter sent in February, the government asked the U.N. rights experts not to prejudge the decision of the court hearing the case.
The police charged Chiranuch not because of anything that she did or said herself but for comments posted on her independent news website, Prachatai, by users. She has been held criminally liable as the site administrator. The Bangkok-based
Internet news site has since been forced to close its web board because of fears that it or its users could be subject to further criminal actions.
Wong Kai Shing, executive director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, welcomed the U.N. experts' intervention and said that it showed that the case is attracting more and more interest globally, because people around the world are concerned
about the use of Thailand's draconian lese-majesty and computer crime laws to stifle legitimate debate.
At a time that the representative of Thailand to the Human Rights Council is holding the council's presidency, it is highly embarrassing that his government is prosecuting someone for speech and computer offences that she
did not commit.
The case cannot in any way be justified in terms of international law. The AHRC also completely rejects the government's arguments that it can be justified on particular cultural or national grounds.
A Thai Criminal Court sentenced the webmaster of a United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) website to a total of 13 years imprisonment for lese majeste and violating the Computer Crimes Act.
The court found Thanthawut Taweewarodomkul, who was in charge of the red shirt supporting website norporchorusa.com, guilty of lese majeste for posting articles which were deemed insulting to the high institution.
Thanthawut given a 10 year jail sentence for lese majeste and three years for violating the Computer Crimes Act.
However FACT (Freedom against Censorship Thailand) point out that Thanthawut's defence was that he was only the site designer, and did not contribute to the content. The site's editing, content and administration is based overseas, presumably in
A Thai man could face up to 15 years in prison after he was arrested in Bangkok for selling copies of an Australian documentary about Thailand's royal family, police said Tuesday.
Eakachai Hongkangwan was charged under Thailand's lese majeste rules which prohibit criticising the kingdom's monarchy, after undercover police arrested him with CDs containing the programme in Bangkok on March 10. He was charged on two counts,
lese majeste and selling CDs without official permission.
Thailand's monarchy is an extremely sensitive subject in the politically divided nation, which is looking to hold elections in the coming months as it recovers from deadly street protests in April and May 2010.
The documentary was broadcast by the state-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) last April in the midst of a military crackdown on the anti-government Red Shirt demonstrations. The programme was not shown outside the country
and could not be viewed over the Internet, but Thailand warned that the broadcast could affect ties with Australia.
Thailand has drawn continued criticism from rights groups for suppressing freedom of speech using the Computer Crimes Act and the lese majeste legislation.
On 4 July, the Criminal Court sentenced Sathian (family name withheld) to 6 years in jail for lese majeste and fined him 100,000 baht for illegally selling video CDs, and, as he pleaded guilty, the penalties were reduced by half.
According to the public prosecutor, Sathian was arrested on 19 March 2011 near the Democracy Monument for unauthorized sales of video CDs and publicizing the contents which were supposedly offensive to the monarchy.
Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva wants the Election Commission (EC) to issue regulations banning politicians from mentioning the monarchy in political debates.
Abhisit said: [By law] the monarchy is above politics and no party should bring the royal institution into political conflicts. Those who violate the law must face legal action.
He said some politicians and parties are suspected of being involved in activities deemed as offensive to the monarchy. The EC should step in to look into the matter, he said.
Abhisit made the statement after the army lodged lese majeste charges against Jatuporn Prompan, co-leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship and two other UDD 'red shirt' figures. They are accused of offending the monarchy in
their speeches at a UDD rally.
Surely nothing to do with personal insult, probably just questioning the wider ruling elite that seems to sit above Thailand's elected government. But difficult to tell as Thailand's press wont publish any details of what was said lest they get
accused of lese majeste themselves.
Thailand's Election Commission (EC) authorities have banned discussion of the monarchy in campaigning for the first national election since the political violence erupted in 2010.
The poll's body has not revealed the details of the new rules, which were announced at a meeting with political representatives.
The EC will discuss details of the ban later, said Apichart Sukananond, the body's chairman, suggesting that parties who disobey the rules may be dissolved and their leaders may be banned for five years.
Debate about the role of the monarchy is a taboo in Thailand as the country prepares its national election in early July.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva supported the ban stating that the monarchy was above politics and conflicts , while the main opposition party Puea thai pledged to respect the rules.
A Thai-born dual Thai-US citizen and passport holder was arrested and detained without bail for allegedly putting up a computer link to the content of the banned book , The King Never Smiles on his blog.
Joe Gordon told a Prachatai online newspaper reporter that he was having difficulties adjusting to Bangkok Remand Prison and that he was worried about the cleanliness of the drinking water. He denied committing lese majeste on the Internet.
Gordon was arrested and taken from Nakhon Ratchasima to Bangkok by the Department of Special Investigation.
A suit was filed on August 24, 2011 against Netfirms Inc., a Canadian web hosting company incorporated in the United States, for releasing personal information to the Thai government.
Netfirms' disclosures allowed Thai officials to identify, detain, and interrogate the plaintiff, Anthony Chai, both in Thailand and on U.S. soil. These disclosures, without which Chai would have remained anonymous, resulted in the Thai government
charging Chai with violating a Thai lese majeste law carrying a sentence of 3 to 15 years in jail. Ironically, the comments that caused the online grief were criticizing that very same law used to restrict free speech in Thailand.
The suit alleges that the company's conduct violated California state law, as well as Constitutional and international human rights law. This case lies at the intersection of privacy guarantees, freedom of expression, international human
rights law and the Internet.
As set out in the complaint, Chai, who owns a computer store in Long Beach, California from which he and his patrons would access and anonymously post comments on a Thai-language pro-democracy website, Manusaya.com, hosted by Netfirms. Many of
the anonymous comments expressed concern with Thailand's lese majeste' laws which prohibit any negative statements about the Thai monarchy and provide for severe punishment.
Chai's privacy rights were violated when, at the request of Thai government officials, Netfirms suspended Manusaya's account and provided Chai's IP address and e-mail address to the Thai officials without notice and without his consent. As a
result of this release of Chai's confidential personal information to Thai government officials, he was subsequently detained at the Bangkok airport, taken to the Department of Special Investigations, and interrogated about his postings on the
website. After finally being released from police custody in Bangkok and returning home to California, Chai was then interrogated by Thai officials over the course of two days on U.S. soil at a hotel in Hollywood, California. Chai was later
informed by Thai officials that if he returns to Thailand, he will be arrested and charged with violating lese majeste' laws.
Theresa Harris, Executive Director of Human Rights USA said, Internet companies need to take great care before releasing confidential information to investigators, especially when those requests come from foreign governments. Information is
power, and these companies have the power to place a person at peril of imprisonment for the equivalent of an anonymous letter to the editor. Companies must be held accountable when they disregard the rights of the people who use their services.
Police in Thailand have arrested a man on charges of lese majeste on Facebook. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison.
Surapak Puchaisaeng is a computer programmer from Bangkok. Lawyer Lomrak Meemeuan said his client was accused of creating a Facebook profile with defamatory pictures, audio clips, and messages about the nation's revered monarch, according to CBS
Lomrak said his client insists he is innocent, and denies all allegations of insulting the monarchy. He is now being held in a Bangkok jail. Police have also confiscated his desktop and laptop computers.
Any Thai citizen can make a complaint under the lese majeste law against any Thai or foreign citizen in Thailand. Once the complaint has been made, the police are duty-bound to investigate. Once the process of lese majeste has started, it is
In the last few years, the number of lese majeste cases in Thailand has soared. There had been hopes that a change of government would reverse the trend but the opposite seems to be happening. Human rights groups have criticized the law for being
used by officials to limit freedom of expression.
Thai webmasters are expected to monitor their sites for illegal or inappropriate content. Most Internet companies have policies for dealing with such content, such as takedowns in response to complaints and other feedback. But this may not be
enough to escape prosecution in Thailand, which is on the warpath against online political speech. A high-profile trial of an Internet webmaster accused of not keeping sufficiently close tabs on her customers has gotten plenty of attention
lately. It has even rung alarm bells among global companies. They worry that Thailand's clampdown on websites is bad for free speech and for e-commerce.
Here's what the Asia Internet Coalition, which includes Yahoo, Google, eBay and other big tech names, said this week:
By holding an intermediary liable for the actions of its users, this case could set a dangerous precedent and have a significant long-term impact on Thailand's economy. It could also end up denying Thai Internet users access to many of the
online services they use everyday.
The intermediary in the dock is Chiranuch Premchaiporn, a Thai who runs Prachatai, a political website that used to host a popular online forum. Prachatai closed its forums last year and other political websites have either closed their online
forums or restricted the use of anonymous comments.
Premchaiporn's alleged crime was to fail to instantly delete anti-monarchy posts. She says that she did remove the comments when asked by authorities. The prosecution has said that she had no connection to the posters. But she is still being held
liable for what they wrote.
Chiranuch Premchaiporn, the embattled director of prachaitai.com, has become the first Thai to win the Hellman/Hammett Grant from Human Rights Watch for her commitment to free expression and her courage in the face of prosecution.
Chiranuch, who might face 20 years in jail under the Computer Crimes Act for not deleting 10 messages that were deemed defamatory to the monarchy quickly enough, said that the award also made her sad .
The significance of me being the first Thai to receive this award is an indicator that freedom of expression in Thailand has declined since the September 2006 coup, she said in a statement.
United Nations representatives of a dozen countries including France, Germany, the UK and Australia have recommended that the Thai government amend their lese majeste law to bring the country's level of freedom of expression in line with
The recommendation was made during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session in Geneva. The four-yearly process organised by the United Nations Human Rights Council requires each UN member state to present a report on various human rights
conditions and to hear questions and recommendations by representatives of other members.
Representatives from the United Kingdom, France and Slovenia shared the view that the lese majeste law affected freedom of expression and urged Thailand to consider this aspect of liberty. Hungary and Finland urged Thailand to invite the UN
special rapporteur on freedom of expression to visit Thailand.
The representative of Norway made the suggestion, that although Norway has a lese majeste law, a charge can only be brought with the personal approval of the king in order to avoid abuses .
The United States joined China, Syria, Singapore and Burma in not expressing any concern about the lese majeste law. One European diplomat told The Nation that Washington's lack of comment on the issue put the US in the same league with
Other states whose representatives urged Thailand to amend the law included Switzerland, Brazil, Spain, Sweden and New Zealand. Some of these, including the Canadian representative, also raised the issue of the Computer Crimes Act, which critics
say is also being used by the Thai government to curb freedom of expression.
A raging debate kicked off on social network sites when a 61-year-old man was given a 20-year jail sentence for sending four text messages on his mobile phone, which the court considered as being anti-monarchy. This is the longest known sentence
to date under the Thai Computer Crimes Act of 2007.
The suspect is accused of having sent four defamatory text messages from his mobile phone last year to Somkiat Klongwattanasuk, secretary of then-premier Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Meanwhile, many royalists were elated because they believed justice had been served, with some calling for even harsher punishment.
Karnt Thassanaphak, a member of the Awareness 112 Campaign Group which is seeking to abolish the lese majeste law, said this reaction was shocking.
Thailand is taking on Facebook over articles that are critical of its monarchy. The Thai Ministry of Information and Communications Technology has sent a request to Facebook to remove 10,000 pages or URLs that are critical of the Thai monarchy.
However this is being challenged in the US. The US authorities have been asked to investigate the Thai request against the background of the Freedom of Information Act, the Speech Act of 2010, US constitutional safeguards and other laws relevant
to free expression in a democratic society.
Meanwhile the Thai Information and Communication Technology Minister, Anudith Nakornthap, has warned Thai internet users that those who press share or like buttons on Facebook in response to monarchy-related content can violate the
Computer Crime Act.
Although the clicks were only aimed at showing support for people who posted messages or to oppose the ill-intentioned messages, they could be considered an infraction of the law, the minister said.
He advised people who pressed those buttons in Facebook to delete all their reactions and comments.
A Facebook account entitled Report Society of Thailand has been created to allow Facebook users to report spam, fake [Facebook] accounts, infringements of intellectual property rights, immoral or violent content, and of course content
critical of the Thai monarchy.
Mallika Boonmetrakul, deputy spokesperson of the main opposition, the Democrat Party, said that if all attempts to block or ban online content deemed defamatory to the monarchy failed, then the government should adopt her final solution of
blocking Facebook and YouTube completely.
Thailand has jailed a US citizen for two and a half years after he admitted posting web links to a banned biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Joe Gordon, a used car salesman from Colorado who was born in Thailand, pleaded guilty to the charge of criticising the Thai monarchy, at an earlier hearing. He was sentenced to five years in jail, but the judges halved the term because of his
The US has expressed concern over the use of Thailand's lese-majeste law. US officials have repeatedly urged the Thai authorities to ensure freedom of expression, and said the decision to prosecute Gordon was disappointing.
Gordon reportedly translated parts of the widely available biography, The King Never Smiles by Paul Handley, several years ago and posted them on a blog while he was living in the US.
He was arrested in May when he visited Thailand for medical treatment. He initially denied the charges, but said he changed his plea to guilty after being repeatedly refused bail.
Activists say the lese-majeste law has become increasingly politicised, and is used as a tool of repression rather than as a way of protecting the monarchy.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on Thailand to amend the laws on lese majeste.
We are concerned about the ongoing trials and harsh sentencing of people convicted of lese majeste and the chilling effect this is having on freedom of expression, said Ravina Shamdasani, the agency's acting spokesperson: Such harsh
criminal sanctions are neither necessary nor proportionate and violate Thai human rights obligations.
Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Police Captain Chalerm Yubamrung is set to begin his crackdown on websites critical of the monarchy, and has sought a budget of 400 million baht ( £ 8.3 million) to buy new
equipment to block foreign websites.
Chalerm said that previous governments had tried to deal with 'inappropriate' content but had failed. Some people claimed that because some websites were located abroad, it was difficult to take legal action against them, but for websites in the
country they could not make any arrest. Websites abroad cannot be banned, but can be blocked, he said.
He said that he and the Police Chief did not want to manage the budget themselves, but the police would be willing to work. From now on, offensive content must decrease, and harsh measures will be taken, he said.
Chalerm said that some people were concerned about the image of the country in the eyes of other countries, but this was Thailand, and this was not a violation of people's rights.
The government later reacted to fears that civil rights would be threatened if it adopts a tighter monitoring system of internet monitoring.
Police Colonel Siripong Timula, deputy commander of Technology Crime Suppression Division, assured that the monitoring system would not be used extensively, but would be allowed by a court order. He claimed: To curb anxiety, I'd like to stress
that the system must be applied under the law, which means it must be approved by a court. So there is no need to fear violations of rights .
Daranee Chamchoengsilpakul, the Thai Red Shirt firebrand known as Da Torpedo, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for violating Thailand's lese-majeste laws criminalising criticism of the monarchy.
Daranee received the prison sentence for speeches she made during 2008 Red Shirt rallies against the previous government.
It appears that Thailand is becoming aware of international impact of the stream of repressive jail sentences that have hit the headlines recently.
Army chief Prayuth Chano-cha has now urged the public to refrain from discussing the possibility bombings during the New Year holiday, and the issue of the lese majeste law.
Don't start talking about possible bombings and stir up unrest during the New Year, because it could hurt tourism, Gen Prayuth said. People should not be calling on the authorities to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the
lese majeste law:
Personally, I feel we should not talk about this and I don't want it to go overboard. If people think Thai law is unjust or too harsh, they can go live abroad.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung has also voiced opposition to amending the lese majeste law. He said he had been always clear about his stance on the lese majeste law.
Why change Section 112 since it's good already? Don't they [people who want Section 112 amended] have jobs to go to?
Chalerm also said he would chair a meeting of the committee for dealing with websites with lese majeste content and that a 'war room' would be set up for this committee.
The newly opened Centre for Monitoring Lese Majeste Websites is offering advice to Thais on what to do and not to do when browsing the internet:
The first advice the centre gives the public is: Do not forward, send a link or revisit websites - including Facebook, Twitter or YouTube - with content that is critical of the monarchy. Those who do so can be regarded as supporting such
Never press 'Like' in Facebook or click 'Follow' on Twitter for sites with content critical of the monarchy.
If you Google certain key words such as 'King Thailand' and come across indecent content, do not activate the link because browsing those websites can upgrade the ranking of those lese majeste sites, eventually pushing them to the top of the
It is suggested that the public check in to such websites as www.weloveking.com and www.welovekingonline.com.
A senior United Nations expert made a private visit to Bangkok to discuss and monitor restricted freedom of expression in the Kingdom, especially the controversial lese-majeste law.
Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, issued a statement last year expressing concern about Thailand's lese-majeste law.
He hopes he will be officially invited back later this year to examine the law and issues of expression. Freedom of expression is a fundamental element of any democratic society, La Rue said, urging Thai authorities to do what they can to
La Rue met with members of the House of Representatives' Committee on Human Rights and the Senate Committee on Human Rights, as well as with National Human Rights Commissioner Nirand Pitakwatchara.
He told a group of reporters that liberation movements around the world, the Arab Spring for example, were a consequence of lack of freedom of expression.
Thai group expresses concerns about freedom of expression
A group of prominent figures with royal lineage have appealed to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to amend the lese majeste law. Eight people with royal lineage signed a letter which they sent to the PM asking the government to change the law.
The letter said the number of lese majeste cases had increased substantially in the span of seven years, from zero in 2002 to 165 in 2009. News about these cases has been reported around the world and resulted in increasingly intense attacks on
the institution of the monarchy, it said.
The group cited in support of its move His Majesty King Bhumibol's address on Dec 4, 2005 in which he said putting people who criticised the monarchy in jail only caused trouble to him.
There has been worldwide criticism of the Thai authorities over a court ruling that penalized a webmaster for criticisms of the monarchy posted to a Bangkok-based website.
Chiranuch Premchaiporn, who manages web content for Prachatai, violated the Computer Crimes Act because she failed to quickly erase content deemed critical of the monarchy, Bangkok's Criminal Court said. The court fined her and imposed an
eight-month jail sentence that it suspended for one year.
The ruling is a serious threat to the future of the Internet in Thailand, Ross LaJeunesse, Google's head of public policy in the Asia-Pacific region, said in a statement:
The precedent is bad for Thai businesses, users and the innovative potential of Thailand's Internet economy.
Telephone companies are not penalized for things people say on the phone and responsible website owners should not be punished for comments users post on their sites. But Thailand's Computer Crimes Act is being used to do just that.
The sentence is the latest in a growing number of convictions for royal criticism that has prompted academics to call for revisions to the lese-majeste law, a move the country's major political parties have denounced. The U.S., European Union and
United Nations asked Thailand to respect freedom of speech following convictions last year.
Reporters Without Borders condemns today's decision by a Bangkok appeal court to uphold Prachatai news website editor Chiranuch Premchaiporn's May 2012 conviction on a charge of lese-majeste for failing to remove anti-monarchist comments from the
site quickly enough. Reporters Without Borders said:
This ruling sets a dangerous precedent for editors, who could now be held responsible for the comments that visitors post on their sites. The judicial system's obstinacy is appalling, but the fight for freedom of information must not be
abandoned. We will keep on condemning use of lese-majeste charges to persecute critics of the monarchy.
The court also upheld the eight-month suspended prison sentence that Chiranuch received at the original trial, arguing that, as an experienced journalist, she should have known that criminals often use the Internet to attack the monarchy
and that it is every Thai citizen's duty to defend the royal family.
An American Thai sentenced to two and a half years in Thai prison for translating a banned biography about the country's king and posting the content online has been freed by a royal pardon, the U.S. Embassy has announced.
Joe Gordon was convicted in December for translating excerpts of the book into Thai. The punishment was a high-profile example of the severe sentences meted out for criticism of the monarchy.
No reason was given for the pardon, but U.S. officials have pressed Thai authorities to release the Thai-born American since he was first detained in May 2011. US Embassy spokesman Walter Braunohler said.
We are pleased that His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej granted Joe Gordon a royal pardon, which allowed him to be released from prison, Braunohler said. We urge Thai authorities on a regular basis, both privately and publically, in Bangkok and
in Washington, to ensure that freedom of expression is protected in accordance with its international obligations.
A prominent member of Thailand's red-shirt political movement has been jailed for two years for comments relating to the monarchy in a 2010 speech.
Activist and comedian Yossawaris Chuklom, who uses the stage name Jeng Dokchik, made the speech at a rally in Bangkok during political protests.
People found guilty under Thailand's strict lese majeste laws can face up to 15 years in prison.
Critics of the law say it has been used to suppress free speech. For example, calling for the abolition of the monarchy is considered an insult to the royal family.
A lawyer for Yossawaris said he had originally been sentenced to three years but that the judge reduced it to two because he had given useful evidence. He added that his client intended to appeal against the verdict, and would apply for bail.
A magazine editor sentenced to ten years in prison for publishing two negative articles about Thailand's monarchy. Somyot Pruksakasemsuk published the articles in Voice of Taksin .
The verdict came despite repeated calls by rights groups to free Somyot, who has been jailed since 2011. They condemned his imprisonment as the latest affront to freedom of expression in the Southeast Asian country.
The articles were published under a pseudonym in Somyot's now-defunct Voice of Taksin magazine, which he launched in 2009 to compile political news and anti-establishment articles from writers and contributors.
Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, explained that the case appears to be more about Somyot's strong support for amending the lese majeste law than about any harm incurred by the monarchy. Although the articles were published
in 2010, Somyot was not arrested until the following year, five days after launching a petition drive to revoke Article 112 of the nation's criminal code. The author of the articles has never been charged with any crimes and is reported to be
living in Cambodia.
Judges found both articles included content that criticised the royal family and argued that Somyot, as a veteran editor, was aware of that. The court handed down two five-year jail terms - one for each story.
Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said:
The harsh sentence sends the wrong signals on freedom of expression in Thailand. The court's decision is the latest indication of a disturbing trend in which lese majesty charges are used for political purposes. People exercising freedom of
expression should not be punished in the first place.
The European Union said:
The verdict seriously undermines the right to freedom of expression and press freedom and affects Thailand's image as a free and democratic society.
Somyot said he would appeal the verdict but would not seek a royal pardon.
A Thai court has sentenced Ekkachai Hongkangwan to five years in prison term and fine of 100,000 baht for selling documentary CDs produced by Australian Broadcasting Corporation and copies of wikileaks documents claimed to be defaming to
Thailand's Queen and Crown Prince.
Later the court reduced sentence by a third stating that defendant's testimony benefitted the court.
The police arrested Ekkachai on March 10, 2011 after enticing him to sell a CD for 20 baht, and seized over 100 CDs, a CD burner and 10 copies of WikiLeaks materials. The police charged him for violating lese majeste and Film and Video Act.
The CDs contained a documentary aired on ABC's Foreign Correspondent program in 2010 which critically discussed Thailand's monarchy and Maha Vajiralongkorn as the King's successor.
The alleged wikileaks documents are US embassy cables from 2008 which indicated that the Queen supported the 2006 coup. Others contained high ranking discussions about the royal succession.
The judges deemed the content of the materials misleading and defamatory to the monarchy.
A Thai court has sentenced a woman to five years in jail for criticising the royal family or Thailand's monarchy system. It is the the second such conviction in recent days.
Under repressive lese majeste rules, anyone convicted of insulting the Thai king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count. However criticism is considered an insult, as is debate about the monarchy system.
Nopawan Tangudomsuk was found guilty of lese majeste and breaking computer crime laws with comments posted on a popular website in 2008, an official from Bangkok's court of appeal told AFP, without giving further details. She was initially
acquitted in a 2011 trial when prosecutors failed to prove she was behind the posting on the Prachatai site, whose editor has been convicted in a separate case of failing to remove a comment critical of the monarchy.
The appeal court decided to reverse the ruling in Nopawan's case, a court official said, without giving details.
The ruling comes a day after the founder of the royalist Yellow Shirts was sentenced to two years in prison by the same appeal court under lese majeste laws. Sondhi Limthongkul, one of Thailand's most controversial political figures, was
convicted after prosecutors appealed an earlier acquittal over remarks quoting a speech by a political rival in 2008.
Reporters Without Borders has asked the Thai Ministry of Communications and Internet Technology to change its approach to updating the Computer Crime Act of 2007.
The law already authorizes the government to arrest journalists and bloggers for political reasons. If a newly proposed amendment were adopted, the government would have even more latitude to muzzle the independent and opposition media. Reporters
Without Borders said:
We support the five journalists association which have protested the bill. The bill -- in addition to eliminating a requirement for a judicial warrant to block a website -- would allow that action without approval from the Ministry of
Communications and Internet Technology, thereby distancing the law even more from international standards.
The press freedom organization added, We request that the legislation be withdrawn in its entirety.
In a joint press release on 24 October, the Thai Journalists Association, the Thai Broadcasting Journalists Association, Online News Providers Association, Information Technology Reporters and Academic Specialists on Computer Law Group declared
that the bill would threaten the very infrastructure of the internet and would make website operators, internet service providers and users responsible for content.
A Thai Criminal Court handed out an unprecedented lese-majeste ruling, sentencing a man to jail for an attempt to criticise the royal family because insulting messages and photos of the royal family were found in his computer.
The court found Kittiton guilty of three offences. Two offences was for posting twice a lese-majeste message on a web forum called Internet to Freedom on DangDD.com, a hard-core anti-establishment web forum under username Kenji. He was found
guilty under the lese-majeste law, or Article 112 in the Criminal Code and Computer Crime Act's Article 14 and was sentenced to five years imprisonment for each offence.
The third offence was for an attempt to criticise the monarchy. The prosecutor accused the defendant that the evidence in his computer showed that the defendant had prepared to post another lese-majeste message on the web forum, but the
attempt failed because of the arrest and confiscation of his computer. He was found guilty under Article 112 and Article 80 for attempted offence and sentenced him to three years and four months in jail. Nevertheless, the judges did not give the
rationale for their decision.
Article 80 of the Criminal Code states that whoever commences to commit an offence, but does not carry it through, or carries it through, but does not achieve its end, is said to attempt to commit an offence. Whoever attempts to commit an offence
shall be liable to two-thirds of the punishment as provided by the law for such offence.
Kittiton says he will request for a royal pardorn.
A Thai Criminal Court began hearing the case of a 65-year-old woman who stepped on a picture of the country's king in July 2012 and was prosecuted for violating the lese majeste law.
Thitinan was accused of defaming the King by allegedly stepping on the King's picture during a pro-establishment rally in front of the Constitutional Court in July 13, 2012. The protesters at the rally brought charges against her with the police
and would testify against her in the hearing.
Thailand's National police chief Police General Somyot Poompanmuang has banned the ordering and importation of the book A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand's Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century , claiming that it contains
The police chief issued the ban under the Printing Act of 2007. The book was written by Scottish journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall, a former journalist with the Thomson Reuters news agency. The book, which had not gone on sale in Thailand, was
released last week by the British publishing house, Zed Books.
Somyot based the decision on articles reviewing the book that were printed in two overseas newspapers in the online edition of the South China Morning Post and the online edition of UK newspaper The Independent.
The police claimed the two articles showed that the book insulted and fomented hatred of Their Majesties the King and the Queen, the heir to the throne, and affected national security, peace and public morality.
Somyot said violators of the ban were liable to a prison term of up to three years and/or a fine of up to 60,000 baht (£1200). He also ordered the seizure and destruction of copies of the book.
Formers Reuters correspondent, Andrew MacGregor Marshall, now a freelance journalist and analyst on Thai culture and politics, expressed his delight that his book was banned. During the last two days, the book has featured in AP ,
Bangkok Post , Thai PBS (English version), BBC Thai , Prachatai, and other Thai news sites .
The book, which Marshall says was partly based on information from classified US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, as well as contacts from within the royal establishment, was already an Amazon bestseller in the Asian History
section. Marshall commented:
I am fundamentally opposed to the banning of books, and I don't see how Thailand can hope to solve its problems peacefully unless Thais are allowed to openly discuss and debate all aspects of their politics and history. Censorship and
suppression can only make the crisis worse, and increase the risk that there will be more violence. However, I'm personally delighted that the Thai police have banned my book. I would have been very offended if they hadn't. My book is intended
to challenge the myths and fairy tales of the Thai elite, and the ban shows I did my job properly.
A Thai court has sentenced a man and a woman to two years and six months in jail each for damaging the monarchy .
Patiwat Saraiyaem, 23, and Pornthip Munkong, 26, had pleaded guilty to breaking repressive lese majeste laws which protect the royals from criticism and insults.
The charges related to a play they performed at a university in 2013. The play, called Wolf Bride, was set in a fantasy kingdom and featured a fictional king and his advisor. It marked the 40th anniversary of a student pro-democracy protest that
was crushed by a military regime.
The BBC's Jonathan Head, who is at the court in Bangkok, says the two were handcuffed together on arrival, one wearing leg shackles.
However, the full details have not been widely reported because under the laws media coverage which repeat details of the offence is considered the same as the original statement.
Two military courts in Thailand have sentenced a man to 30 years in prison and a woman to 28 years for supposedly insulting the monarchy.
The sentences are the harshest ever given under Thailand's lese majeste law, which nominally prevents criticism of the king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, but is widely cast such that criticism of the political system could be construed as an insult to the
The convictions relate to articles posted on Facebook. Tour operator Pongsak Sriboonpeng was tried in secret at a court in Bangkok. The judge sentenced him to ten years for each of the six posts he made about the monarch on social media. But the
arbitrarily doubled up 60-year term was halved after he pleaded guilty.
In a separate case, a 29-year-old hotel worker and mother of two was sentenced to 56 years by a court in the northern city of Chiang Mai. Her sentence was also halved after a guilty plea.
Earlier in the week, a man with a history of mental illness was given five years in jail for tearing a portrait of the king.
Jonathan Head, BBC south east Asia correspondent, Bangkok explained that ten years ago, open criticism of the monarchy was almost unknown. But the political polarisation of Thai society since a military coup nine years ago, which was backed by
the palace, has prompted some Thais to challenge the official veneration of the king, especially on social media.
Thailand has banned imports and sales of the November 2015 edition of the French women's magazine Marie Claire over an article it said carried content insulting to its royal family and offensive to its people.
Criticism of Thailand's monarchy is outlawed by draconian lese majeste laws that regularly bring jail sentences of up to 15 years for each perceived insult.
An announcement in the Royal Gazette, signed by Thailand's police chief, said the article was defamatory and malicious to the royal family, affecting national security, peace and order and the morale of the people . The order said
any copies found would be confiscated and destroyed.
Thailand, who have a repressive lese majeste law, which metes out extreme punishments for minor criticisms of royalty, has been accused of insulting Myanmar's historic royalty.
A Thai soap opera that appears to depict Burmese palace intrigue has angered some in Myanmar including a descendant of Myanmar's last king. Soe Win, the great-grandson of King Thibaw, has called for the show to be cancelled as it is insulting
. He told AFP:
We have asked Thais this, would they accept it if one of our companies here did the same thing about their country.
But producers of the historical drama, called Plerng Phra Nang (A Lady's Flames) , have insisted it is purely fictional.
The lady in question is Ananthip, a character who schemes to seize control of the kingdom. Some have observed she closely resembles Hsinbyumashin, a real-life Burmese palace consort who orchestrated the massacre of scores of royals so that Thibaw
could ascend the throne. Thibaw abdicated and the Burmese monarchy was abolished in 1885, when British forces defeated and invaded Burma.
Amnesty International (AI) has slammed an unprecedented ban by Thailand's military junta on using the internet to communicate with three critics of the monarchy, noting that authorities had hit new lows in curbing free speech.
The new order makes any online interaction with the trio, including contacting them, and following or sharing their social media posts, a jailable offence under an extreme censorship law titled the Computer Crime Act.
The trio are Thai academics Somsak Jeamteerasakul and Pavin Chachavanpongpun, as well as ex-reporter Andrew MacGregor Marshall. They all onw live outside of Thailand.
Josef Benedict, AI's Deputy Director for Southeast Asia said:
The Thai authorities have plunged to new depths in restricting people's freedom of expression. After imprisoning people for what they say both online and offline, and hounding critics into exile, they want to cut people off from each other
Military authorities in Thailand have warned Facebook to take down content criticising the monarchy, or face legal action.
Facebook has been given until next Tuesday to remove about 130 items from pages viewable in Thailand. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission told the BBC that Facebook had already co-operated in blocking some pages, but that
more than 130 judged to be illegal by the authorities remained visible in Thailand.
Facebook says it does consider requests from governments to block material, and will comply if it breaks local laws.
Any comment critical of the monarchy can result in prosecution under Thailand's strict lese-majeste law, even if the criticism is justified. Those convicted face extreme prison sentences.
Thailand's military government that seized power in Thailand in 2014 has made great efforts to suppress any criticism of the monarchy. Thousands of websites have been blocked, and people caught sharing, or even liking Facebook posts deemed
unflattering to the monarchy have been prosecuted.
A Thai man has been jailed for 35 years for Facebook posts critical of the royal family in one of the most extreme sentences handed down for a crime that insulates Thailand's ultra-rich monarchy from criticism.
A Bangkok military court convicted him of 10 counts of lese-majesty for posting photos and videos of the royal family on a Facebook account that purported to belong to a different user. The man, whose last name was withheld to protect his
relatives, was accused of using the account to slander a former friend, said iLaw, a group that tracks royal defamation cases.
The court punished him with seven years per count. Altogether he was given 70 years, but it was reduced in half because he confessed.
Later on Friday, a criminal court sentenced another lese-majesty victim to two and a half years in jail for uploading an audio clip from an underground political radio show that was deemed insulting to the monarchy.
The United Nations' rights body has warned that Thailand's widespread use of the law may constitute crimes against humanity.
The governor of Thailand's Chiang Mai province has sued a local magazine in an attempt to silence a protest highlighting dangerous levels of local air pollution.
Protestors had contributed pictures of themselves and others wearing pollution masks to a Facebook campaign. One student had painted a picture of a famous local statue of 3 ancient kings, adding pollution facemasks.
The local governor seized on the country's extreme lese majeste laws to put an end to the protest. The broadly-interpreted crime of lese majeste - which can carry decades-long sentences - has cemented a culture of fear and necessary
self-censorship across the kingdom. The governor said:
I assigned my official to file a complaint with police yesterday that the picture may have violated the Computer Crime Act as it's inappropriate. The statues of three kings are very sacred and respected by Chiang Mai residents, they were our
In an official letter to police, the governor said the painting may affect Chiang Mai's image and its tourism, causing the city economic instability. He did not mention how a reputation for repression and extreme punishment for trivial offences
may also have a negative effect on people wanting to visit the country.