Day Eight: Free speech on trial in Thailand
September 6, 2011
“I can’t remember.” “จำไม่ได้.”
URGENT UPDATE—Chiranuch’s trial will NOT be heard on Wednesday, September 7 as expected. Trial will resume on Friday, September 9 for the last prosecution witness. It is likely the presiding judge will continue with hearings on mornings only, starting at 9:30am. Please come!
Today’s only witness was nine-year police veteran Nittipat Wuttiboonyasit from the Investigation Dept of the National Police Bureau.
Nittipat testified that he received a complaint forwarded from Aree Jivorarak at MICT regarding offensive texts posted on the Prachatai web forum but at that stage the names of the perpetrators of the alleged offences were unknown.
FACT readers and others following Chiranuch’s trial will be aware that Aree is the ICT ministry’s chief censor and the prosecution’s first witness.
Presiding judge the Honourable Kampot Rungrat was again today accompanied by a female judge who sat on his right. Evidently fatigued by previous exertions, she took no part in the proceedings, leaving the courtroom on more than one occasion as on Day Seven and giving observers the distinct impression she was there merely as a makeweight.
The Hon. Judge Kampot was as lively as ever, though, and asked what the nature of the complaint was, to which the answer was “text regarded as defaming of the King, Queen and Heir Apparent.”
The complaint was reported to the Director of the National Police Bureau and an Investigation Committee was set up, which included both Nittipat and Aree, to look at the posts individually.
When asked which of the texts violated the law, Nittipat replied that he couldn’t remember. However, when a later check was run to see if the offending texts were still on the website he replied they were.
The Investigating Committee eventually found that the webmaster of the Web forum containing the offensive posts was Chiranuch Premchaiporn.
The Criminal Court then ordered an arrest warrant to charge the webmaster with intent to support “inappropriate” text on her website, irrespective of whether it was true or false, such action being deemed a threat to national security.
Search and arrest warrants were duly served at 1:30 pm on March 6, 2009 at the Prachatai offices, which were then searched by police and Chiranuch arrested.
The judge asked of what charge the police informed Chiranuch. The witness stated the charge against the authors of the offensive posts was in violation of Article 112 but the charge against Chiranuch was in violation of sections of the Computer Crime Act.
Chiranuch’s laptop was removed and she was sent to police Lt.-Col. Boonlert Kanlayanamitra examination as officer-in-charge of the investigation who forwarded the lèse majesté case against Chiranuch to the public prosecutor.
The witness stated there were a total of nine allegedly offensive texts. When Nittipat was asked which texts showed their authors and which didn’t, he replied that the authors could not be identified because the ISP log had lapsed owing to the fact that more than 90 days had passed since the original postings.
The Hon. Judge then observed that as a result only Prachatai was being sued for malfeasance.
The prosecution made great play of the fact that one of the postings contained a link to Da Torpedo’s speech which has landed her in jail for lèse majesté under Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code. This may have been an attempt at guilt by association.
However, the Hon. Judge returned the text of the speech to the prosecutor indicating it was unclear whether the document was Darunee’s speech transcribed verbatim.
The original complaint to censor Aree was filed by a Khun Tanit, and the witness stated that he had interviewed him.
In defence cross examination, the witness was asked whether he recalled a meeting between ISPs and the police in November 2008 to explore guidelines in cooperating with the censorship of offensive text.
Did Nittipat recall that the chair of this meeting was a Khun Tiradet and that the purpose of the meeting was to restrict anti-monarchist text by means of the authorities asking webmasters to block it?
Did he recall that Chiranuch was there?
To all these questions the response was very vague with an emphasis on “I can’t remember” จำไม่ได้.
Did the police veteran recall that in the press conference after the meeting Tiradet praised Prachatai as a forum following good practice in that it had a feature for readers to report inappropriate comment, a feature by no means universal on webboards at the time.
When Aree filed the complaint did he say that Chiranuch and Prachatai were liable?
We learned that as the court had ordered the closure of the Prachatai web forum, subsequent investigation was carried out on printed copies of the allegedly offensive texts provided by MICT.
“Do you recall that Aree Jivorarak had said he asked the court to tell Prachatai to remove the posts?”
“Is Ari’s testimony part of the Investigative Committee report?”
Any non-Thai speaker would certainly have learned the meaning of this phrase, pronounced “jum mai dai,” by the time the morning was out, and the Hon. Judge had cause to remark on its frequent use.
Followers of Chiranuch’s trial may recall that MICT’s chief censor Aree was strangely similarly vague in his replies.
This repeated response by the witness begs a couple of questions:
1) Did Nittipat genuinely not remember all these things or was it a prosecution tactic to muddy the waters of the defence case? and
2) It was not clear that the defence had irrefutable evidence to verify its statements irrespective of whether the witness corroborated them or not.
The final Investigation Committee Report was read and signed by all members of the committee, including those not directly involved in the case.
As a simple, commonsense observation, it seems to us that it is the veritable job description and duty of care of a police officer of any rank to remember with great legal precision the details of every investigation, at least by referring to detailed contemporaneous notes made part of the police file whether or not the investigation resulted in charges being laid.
One Prachatai observer noted today, “It’s like swimming in a pond, round and around”. And it is a concern that the honourable judge did not attempt to pin down this police witness’s vagaries, reject his testimony altogether or even charge the witness with contempt for wasting the court’s valuable time.
Things may change when the defence witnesses are called in the latter part of the trial. But how much defence will the judge permit?
Chiranuch’s trial resumes September 9 at Bangkok’s Criminal Court (San Aya) on Ratchadapisek Road near Lat Phrao MTR station, Exit 4. The trial is being heard in courtroom 910 but the case docket number is 1167/2553 in case the courtroom venue changes.
The final prosecution witness will be heard Friday, September 9. Defence winesses will be examined on Tuesday, September 20 (Jon Ungpakorn, Prachatai’s founder, in the morning and Dr. Niran Pithakwatchara, Prachatai board member and a human rights commissioner for Thailand, in the afternoon at least as presently scheduled) and Wednesday, September 21.
It is now unclear whether the original trial schedule of October 11, 12, 13, and 14 will be used.
WE URGE ALL READERS TO SPEND AT LEAST ONE MORNING OR AFTERNOON SESSION TO SUPPORT JIEW AND TO STAND UP FOR FREE SPEECH.
WE LOVE JIEW! WE LOVE PRACHATAI!
“Day One: Thai webmaster facing 50 years for lèse majesté postings” http://facthai.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/day-one-free-speech-on-trial-in-thailand/
“Day Two: Thailand’s chief censor continues in Prachatai trial” http://facthai.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/day-two-free-speech-on-trial-in-thailand/
“Day Three: MICT’s legal advisor testifies: ‘Freedom has its limits’” https://facthai.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/day-three-free-speech-on-trial-in-thailand/
“Day Four: MICT and police lawyers testify” http://facthai.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/day-four-free-speech-on-trial-in-thailand/
“Day Five: Police scientist testifies for prosecution” http://facthai.wordpress.com/2011/02/12/day-five-free-speech-on-trial-in-thailand-postponed/
“Day Six: Two police ‘IT experts’ testify as Prachatai trial resumes” http://facthai.wordpress.com/2011/09/01/day-six-free-speech-on-trial-in-thailand/
“Day Seven: Police lèse majesté “experts” in Prachatai trial” http://facthai.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/day-seven-free-speech-on-trial-in-thailand/