July 21, 2012
[FACT comments: You’d have to be plain crazy to pop the bird at the King…or even his visage. Thai courts won’t buy the truth; can they be expected to take bona fide medical reasons into consideration?]
Woman to face royal insult charge pending mental examination
The Nation: July 19, 2012
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung on Thursday confirmed police would charge a woman accused of insulting the monarchy if she was found to be sane in the mental status examination.
“I confirm police will legal action,” he said, dismissing speculation about police inaction.
On Friday, Thitinan Juntaranont, Thai expatriate from New Zealand and seen as a red shirt, defiled the picture of the King displayed at the multi-colour shirt rally during the Constitution Court verdict session on charter change.
Policemen promptly intervened to escort her from the scene and refused to press charge on grounds for suspected insanity.
A number of activists stepped forward to criticise police for drawing a hasty conclusion before sending the accused for psychological evaluation.
On Tuesday following the spread of messages in the social media, a number of Thais rallied at Suvarnabhumi Airport in a bid prevent Thitinan from boarding a flight to Auckland.
Police subsequently clarified that Thitinan was admitted to the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute to undergo mental tests.
Woman held for making rude gestures
The Nation July 19, 2012
City police have assigned a team to look into allegations that Thitinant Kaewchantranont, a 63-year-old New Zealand resident, had made an improper gesture toward an image of His Majesty the King outside the Constitution Court on Friday, Metropolitan Police deputy commander Pol Maj-General Anuchai Lekbumrung said yesterday.
The woman, who was born in Thailand, was stopped from boarding a flight to Auckland and is currently being detained at the Galaya Rajanagarindra Institute.
Thitinant will face lese majeste charges, though a psychiatrist will also determine the state of her mind, he said. She reportedly has a history of mental illness and had undergone treatment at Sri Thanya Hospital.
Meanwhile, Immigration Police Office 2 commander Pol Maj-General Natthorn Phrosunthorn said that Thitinant’s name was not included in the list of those leaving the country nor was there an arrest warrant out for her. However, he added, that police had notified his office at 4pm yesterday to stop her from leaving the country. He said Thitinant’s two relatives were able to travel to Auckland as normal.
Bangkok Post: July 18, 2012
A New Zealand-resident Thai woman accused of a lese majeste offence did not show up for a flight to Auckland yesterday after police admitted her to hospital.
About 200 people had turned up at Suvarnabhumi airport to protest against her possible departure.
Protesters picketed outside the airport after learning that Thitinant Kaewchantranont, 63, was due to check in for a Thai Airways International (THAI) flight to Auckland.
Danuj Bunnag, managing director for THAI’s ground services business unit, said Ms Thitinant did not arrive at Suvarnabhumi to check in for the flight, although her husband, a New Zealand national, did get on board.
Ms Thitinant has a history of mental illness.
Thung Song Hong police in Bangkok, who have lodged a lese majeste complaint against her, referred her to Srithanya Hospital in Nonthaburi to see if she is genuinely mentally ill.
She has since been referred to the Galaya Rajanagarindra Institute.
She was admitted to the hospital on Friday last week after allegedly making an improper gesture towards an image of His Majesty the King outside the Constitution Court on the same day.
Police said that if Ms Thitinant had shown up at the airport, officers would have prevented her from boarding, as they believed she was unfit to leave the country.
A THAI source said the plane’s captain had pledged to refuse to pilot the aircraft if Ms Thitinant was on board, arguing the woman could pose a security risk.
Protesters left the airport after they were told Ms Thitinant had not turned up for the flight and was being assessed at a hospital.
[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: There is a plot! The court is telling an accused he can’t plead not guilty! Unbelievable… The goal is obviously conviction at all costs.]
LESE MAJESTY LAW
Court defers lese majeste case, defence advised
The Nation:July 20, 2012
Ekachai Hongkangwan’s lese majeste trial has been deferred to mid-November after judges advised the defendant to change his plea by saying that he had no intention to defame the monarchy but that he merely wanted to share information.
One of the two presiding judges said the defendant did not necessarily have to prove if the information was factual or not. “Because if it is true, it is more defamatory and if it isn’t true, then it’s super defamatory,” Judge Aphisit Veeramitchai explained to lawyer Arnon Nampha and the defendant yesterday. “So proving whether the information is factual or not will not be beneficial to you at all… You have to consider this yourself.”
The judge went on to say that the prosecutors were not out to prove if the information provided in a Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) documentary or on a WikiLeaks cable was factual or not. “They say the content defames [the monarchy],” he said.
However, in his rebuttal, Arnon said that he and his client still wanted to prove the factuality of the information referred to in the documentary, which led to Ekachai’s arrest. Police arrested Ekachai on March 10 last year after he was caught carrying two sets of WikiLeaks diplomatic cable papers as well as peddling unauthorised CDs of the ABC documentary at Bt20 apiece. He was released on bail nine days later.
Arnon told the judges that he had already filed three court requests to summon Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda and Councillor Sith Savetsila to explain their remarks on the future of the monarchy that were referred to in the WikiLeaks papers. He went on to say that he personally believed that Prem and Sith would be truthful about whether the information attributed to them on WikiLeaks was indeed a fact.
After nearly 30 minutes of consultation and 20 minutes of recess, all sides agreed that the trial should be deferred to November and that the defence would focus on proving that Ekachai had no intention to defame the Crown Prince or the monarchy.
However, the defence lawyer said he reserved the right to have the court summon Prem and Sith in case the prosecution still wished to prove the factuality of the information. The court has also accepted the defence lawyer’s request to seek a Constitution Court ruling as to whether or not the lese majeste law contradicts the Constitution because Arnon’s argument is that it violates freedom of expression.
Meanwhile, 36-year-old Ekachai said he still wants to prove that none of the information provided in the documentary or the WikiLeaks papers was provided with malicious intent.
The former lottery agent went on to say that it was imperative for Prem and Sith to testify, adding “I don’t think I will get away by trying to fight on the basis of my intention”.
The Nation: July 18, 2012
The lese majeste trial of Ekachai Hongkangwan, a man arrested for peddling pirated copies of a news documentary produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) about the future of the Thai monarchy and the lese majeste law began yesterday.
Ekachai, who is in his thirties, said he hoped to establish the fact that the video, along with two manuscripts of WikiLeaks cables he is being charged for under the lese majeste law were factual and did not constitute defamation of the monarchy.
He was arrested on March 10 last year for selling pirated CD copies of the ABC documentary for Bt20 each and detained for nine days before being released on bail.
“I don’t think the content is defamatory,” he told The Nation just before the trial began.
Ekachai hoped that the ABC, which is funded by the Australian government, would issue a statement stating that the documentary, which he illicitly copied and peddled, did not contain anything fabricated, non-factual or defamatory.
No correspondents from the ABC were present at the trial yesterday, which Ekachai said suggested made him feel that they lacked “compassion”. However, Zoe Daniel, the ABC’s Bangkok-based Southeast Asia correspondent, tweeted yesterday that she was in India and unable to cover the trial.
Ekachai handed The Nation a copy of an e-mail from the ABC dated August 15 last year, stating that it was not in a position to assist and that the programme was made for an Australian audience.
“We did not in any way encourage people to take the type of action that you say you took. In fact, that action breached the ABC’s copyright in the programme,” wrote Rob Simpson, the ABC director for Legal and Business Affairs. “In these circumstances the ABC will not be providing any statements. There should be no further need to contact the ABC. In particular, you should not contact any of our staff in Thailand as they have had nothing to do with the programme.”
The only sympathy from the ABC was one polite sentence from Simpson saying: “I am sorry to hear the issues that you face.”
At the beginning of the trial yesterday the presiding judges wanted to hold the trial in camera but The Nation objected, saying it was constitutional and that holding a trial in secret was contrary to standard legal procedure in democratic countries. The judges eventually allowed observers to remain but the video was not shown.
Police Lieut Major Somyot Udomraksasab, who ordered the arrest of Ekachai, stood as one of two prosecution witnesses yesterday. He said he believed the ABC report, which contains video footage involving HRH the Crown Prince, was defamatory. Somyot also testified that he believed that WikiLeaks texts claiming to refer to words by leading Thai politicians such as the late prime minister Samak Sundaravej, former premier Anand Panyarachun and Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanond also contained defamatory remarks about the monarchy.
Ekachai’s defence lawyer Arnon Nampha tried to dwell on the facts of some of the information deemed as defamatory – whether it was true or not. But the judges told him they were not out to prove whether the alleged defamatory statements in the video and texts were accurate in reality or not.
“Whether it’s true or not, if you prove it, what will be gained from it?” one of the presiding judges said to Arnon.
July 21, 2012
Prachatai: July 18, 2012
First day of trial of Akachai H., the Australian documentary CD and Wikileaks seller, begins at Ratchada Criminal Court today. In May 2011, the 36-year-old legal lottery vendor was accused of breaching Article 112 of the Criminal Code, better known as the lese majesty law, and Article 54 of the Film and Video Act for selling VCDs of documentary produced by Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) without license. The VCDs contain moving images of persons similar to HRH Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and HRH Princess Srirasmi.
Lt Col Somyot Udomraksasap, police officer from Chana Songkhram Police Station who arrested Akachai testified today, stating that the defendant was lured to sell the VCDs to the police before they arrested him. Information from iLaw freedom database, a documentation of freedom of expression cases, stated that the police were able to seize evidence containing more than 100 VCDs, a CD burner and 10 copies of translated version of US embassy cables published by Wikileaks.
The Wikileaks cables belonging to Akachai allegedly contains conversation of former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun, member of Privy Council Siddhi Savetsila and Head of Privy Council Prem Tinasulanonda about the circumstances of 2006 coup.
Lt Col Somyot testified that after Akachai got arrested, he admitted that he possessed the VCDs of ABC documentary and Wikileaks documents, but pleaded not guilty under Article 112 as charged by the police, as he believed that the improper information only concerns with HRH Princess Srirasmi, not HRH Crown Prince. The Police also said that the defendant said he merely had intention to distribute well-rounded information to the public.
His lawyer, Anon Nampha, said he would file petition to constitutional court tomorrow to have Article 112 considered whether it’s contradicting to Article 45 of Thailand’s Constitution which stipulates that “a person shall enjoy the liberty to express his or her opinion, make speeches, write, print, publicize and make expression by other means.”
July 21, 2012
Tea Leaf Nation: July 9, 2012
Censorship can be complex and nuanced, or it can be simple and clean; those in charge of Shanghai’s Hongqiao Airport’s bookshop clearly subscribe to the purist school.
On July 8, @Harvey-Hui-Wu reported on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter,
“Nowadays speech is so harmonious! I bought an issue of the Economist at [Shanghai's] Hongqiao Airport and wanted to read the articles on China, but found that all articles in that section were torn out! I was so angry and ran back to the bookstore to complain. The clerk said this is how the airport treats the magazine when new stock comes in, and showed me the rest of the Economists at the bookstore. Surely enough, all of them had no China section. I was speechless!” 
For those wondering which articles were affected, @Harvey-Hui-Wu responded in his next tweet, “China’s security state and Hong Kong’s democrats! My guess is that customs people specialize in tearing out the China section.”  @Better-Ian thinks it is a special case, “I think it might be the airport’s doing. The issues I see in our provincial library and local library all have the China section.” 
Most commenters on Sina Weibo ridiculed the censorship; others shared their experiences. @智圣Wisaint tweets, “I subscribe to the Asia edition of Time. Articles on China are torn out and issues with covers about China are just not distributed. Sometimes you can see topics on China in the Briefing section. The censors don’t read the magazines that closely.”  @无翼的雀仔X agrees, “That’s very normal. When you watch news broadcast from Hong Kong in Guangdong, you often get three or four blackouts during one segment.” 
@谷大白话 added, “All words and phrases related to Tibet are blacked out with markers in the Merriam Webster dictionaries sold online.”  @刘庆东 offers some advice to the censors, “These people still don’t do their jobs right. Should black out all the article titles from the table of content, so the readers won’t even know what you had torn out.” 
Perhaps editors of the Economist can take (cold) comfort in the fact that Michelangelo’s timeless work suffers a similar fate. @Gucci小古 reports that CCTV news censored a certain body part of the statue David-Apollo in its news broadcast.
Global Voices: July 17, 2012
On June 29, 2012, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Sri Lanka raided offices of two news websites, the Sri Lanka Mirror (srilankamirror.com) and Sri Lanka X News (srilankaxnews.com). They arrested nine journalists, including the editor, and seized equipments on the grounds that the websites were “propagating false and unethical news on Sri Lanka.” The Sri Lanka X News is known as the official news website of the Sri Lanka’s main opposition United National Party (UNP).
Patta Pal Boru questions the process:
The raid on Friday June 29th at the offices of both Sri Lanka Mirror and Lanka X news was not legal. The Police stated that those people were taken into custody under Section 118 of the Penal Code. But, since this Section on the Law of Criminal Defamation has been repealed under Act No. 12 of 2002, the Magistrate ordered to release them all on Police bail.
The blogger adds:
It is obvious that there is no real check to see if what the police does is legal as they seem to be blindly taking orders, not knowing if they are actually legal. What kind of country is this for the police to act in this way?
A statement issued by the srilankamirror.com site said the site would resume from July 2, 2012.
On the other hand Maryam Azwer informs that Thevanayagam Premananth, the editor of a Tamil newspaper Uthayan was summoned to court and he was asked to apologize for a published article.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that Frederica Jansz, the editor of The Sunday Leader newspaper was threatened by the defense secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa during an interview. Ms. Jansz contacted the defense secretary to find out if he was aware that the management at Sri Lankan Airlines had taken a decision to change a scheduled aircraft to a smaller one so that a specific pilot could personally fly the aircraft that would carry a ‘puppy dog’ for the Defense Secretary from Zurich. Mr. Rajapaksa, who is the brother of the incumbent president, at one point become furious and used abusive language threatening the newspaper to not to write about this matter. Mr. Rajapaksa defended his position here.
Indi.ca opines that irrespective of the subject matter:
This type of tirade is an embarrassment from a public official.
The blogger also writes:
All too often, this is how the government play goes. Someone, usually a Rajapaksa, says something ridiculous. In this case, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa called a journalist a ‘pig who eats shit’ and said ‘people will kill you’, all over a puppy story. I know. Then, rather than dialing down on the issue, in this case media freedom, the government dials up the crazy, this time by imposing an onerous tax on online media. [..]
[..] the Media Minister is asking online media to pay Rs. 100,000 to prevent ‘raw filth’. It’s mind boggling because this is what the Defense Secretary was speaking, including threats to violence, which should be taken seriously cause the last Editor of the Sunday Leader was killed.
According to JDS (Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka) the Sri Lankan government has said that it will amend a decades-old media law in order to bring in all news websites and electronic media under regulation. In addition to the registration requirement of news websites, the government is now asking that they should also pay Rs. 100,000 for the privilege, plus Rs. 50,000 annual fee. Indi.ca comments:
This tax is terrible because it inhibits anyone trying to express themselves or create websites after all. After all, what exactly is a news website? Is this blog? If I hired two writers would it become one? Who knows? What if you have not a news website but a popular Facebook page?
The Human Rights Watch has asked the Sri Lankan government to stop harassing the media. A number of Sri Lankan journalists and activists have staged a demonstration, protesting the government’s repression of media and the intimidation of dissenting journalists.